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T. SMEDLEY "terrysmedley" (Taunton UK)
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The Canal
The Canal
by Lee Rourke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A moral tale for our age, surreal and sad, 22 Oct. 2010
This review is from: The Canal (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's a funny thing, reading a book about boredom, though of course this is so much more, as really it's a rather chilling moral tale about the society in which we now live. The two principle characters don't have names, or jobs for that matter, but this didn't bother me, as they had both seemingly made the decision to drop out of society and are happy just to observe...

The novel is based around the canal from the title, which is where our two people meet, forge an uncomfortable relationship and unwittingly perhaps, share in each other's despair and isolation. The story does occasionally wander from this location, but they always seem to find their way back. The ancillary characters in the book, the office workers accross the water, the four surly youths, only emphasize how detached and alien modern society can be.

The story does follow a clear narrative, together with the more surreal episodes; we have flashbacks to our protagonist's childhood, random disturbing events befalling him during the course of the novel and the final event, which is unexpectedly sad. As a comment on modern life, progress, gang culture, alienation, etc. this is a fine book. It is rather short and I read it over a couple of days, but can't help feeling it will stay with me for longer.


Different for Girls: A girl's own true-life adventures in pop
Different for Girls: A girl's own true-life adventures in pop
by Louise Wener
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, entertaining, funny and honest, 30 Sept. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was 17 in 1994, when Sleeper released their first album, so as you'd imagine the whole Britpop thing was quite a big deal for me. I still own `Smart' and their second album, `The It Girl' (though I have to admit they don't get played very often these days). I've always been into music and being a drummer and in bands myself around this time; this is a particularly fascinating era for me to look back on now.

I've seen Louise Wener in a couple of documentaries, in particular in the film `Live Forever' and she comes across as an intelligent person, with a suitably dry and self-deprecating sense of humour, so I was expecting good things from this book. The early sections dealing with her childhood are very entertaining, a fairly standard suburban upbringing, with all the usual teenage trials and tribulations and her love of music shines through (as does the desire for fame itself, which she freely admits to).

After a `wilderness years' period in the early 90's whilst grunge was doing it's thing, things start to take off for her band and before you know it they're in the maelstrom that was Britpop. The anecdotes and name-dropping aren't done to show off, REM and Blur come across as you'd expect, it all happens quite quickly, then before you know it, it's over. The lifestyle is well described, both the highs and lows and then the inevitable fall when the whole bubble burst.

Louise's writing style is very entertaining, the book didn't take long to read as the chapters fly by and she obviously doesn't take herself too seriously as there's plenty of humour to go with the bizarre events that made up her life during this period. I would therefore heartily recommend this book to any music fan, especially with an interest in this era. As for me, I was in a couple of decent bands, but we never got beyond the demo tape stage, so it was good to see how a band like Sleeper made it and what could have been...


The Disciple (Reaper)
The Disciple (Reaper)
by Steven Dunne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good little story, but should have read the first in the series!, 24 Sept. 2010
This review is from: The Disciple (Reaper) (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
With the benefit of hindsight, I really should have read `The Reaper', the book which precedes this, as I felt I was playing catch-up at times, particularly with regard to aspects of the back-story, the characters and modus operandi of the Reaper himself. Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable thriller, cleverly written and well-paced and not at breakneck speed, which is quite refreshing in this genre. The conclusion in particular is well handled; loose ends are not tied up conveniently and it doesn't feel rushed as is often the case in this type of novel.

Brook is a likeable hero, sure he has his foibles and his status as a renegade or `outlaw' is a little contrived, but you can relate to him. This is where I feel knowledge of the first book would be most useful, as I did take a while to warm to him. His various colleagues are kept to a minimum and well fleshed out, which I always find helps with understanding these kinds of storylines; as too many characters, particularly police officers and detectives, can muddy things a little and they tend to become two-dimensional.

The interweaving of the parallel US story from 5 years previous works well and helps enhance The Reaper's power and influence for the reader, plus it keeps us guessing on who's really who and which side they have come down on, once the penny drops at the end. There is violence, but it is not gratuitous or over-done, we are dealing with a serial killer after all, plus there is the whole moral angle of those who are killed and what sort of people they are. Is The Reaper doing society a favour? This is the question we are being asked and the local community in the area of the main killings certainly know which side they are on...


Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie)
Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie)
by Kate Atkinson
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Slow start, but bear with it, 23 Aug. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book took a while to get going, at around 75 pages in I still wasn't too enamoured, there seemed to be a lot of back-story and not much going on in the way of action. The characters, whilst interseting enough, didn't seem to warrant this build up, in particular Tilly, the elderly actress suffering the onset of dementia.

Once things took off at about the half-way mark however, it all seemed justified as this is a very enjoyable read, with humour, suspense and enough action without seeming over-the-top. Courtney, the little girl at the centre of it all, provides plenty of offbeat humour in her interaction with the various characters she encounters. Likewise, Jackson's dog provides a good foil for his character and it's these supporting roles which in part make this story.

Tracy and Jackson are both well rounded and believable people, indeed all the characters in this book were very 'real' people, though I did find the multiple police characters a little confusing. This wasn't helped by the fact they were referred to by both their first and surnames at various times and we see them both now and in the 70s, so I often found myself having to think 'which one's that again?' and 'what did he do?'

I don't want to go into the story too much, or deliberately give anything away, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book and was would only caution you that the ending is a little too tidily wrapped up, as is often the way with crime thrillers. There seemed to be a lot of poetic justice going on, but this was never contrived and you feel everyone got what they deserved at the end despite this.


Maths: A Book You Can Count On
Maths: A Book You Can Count On
by Dan Green
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible, fun and easy to understand, great little book!, 15 Aug. 2010
I have an 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son and hoped this book would be a useful reference for them, as it explains the basic concepts of Maths in a fun way. The back of the book states it is aimed at Key Stages 2 & 3, so is perfect for my kids and they have both picked it up at various times.

It covers a range of mathematical topics: starting with the basics, such as numbers and units what they actually mean; covering sums, multiplication and x values; then onto shapes and solids, including pi and finally covering the meaning and use of data, such as graphs and charts.

A very useful reference then, I can see my children using this often, as it covers these concepts in a fun, easy-to-understand way and features some characters to help this along, together with some historical facts and figures. Highly recommended!


The Radleys
The Radleys
by Matt Haig
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Glad I don't live next door to this lot, though for all I know I could well be..., 15 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Radleys (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Welcome to the world of the Radleys, a world very much like our own, except that vampires (or blood addicts, if you prefer) are not fictional beasts, but live, go to school and work among us, even attending book club meetings. They are to be found in cities, towns and villages alike. When we meet them, Mum and Dad (Peter and Helen) are striving to live as 'unbloods' (i.e. abstaining) and their teenage children have no idea of their true heritage. Not all vampires are abstainers however, some living as fully active creatures of the night.

The Radleys seem to be living fairly normal lives, each member of the family have their foibles and issues, though these can all be linked back to the fact that they are not human, as we go on to discover... Over the course of the proceeding days, one action sparks off a chain of events; Peter's brother Will, a fully active and charismatic vampire, arrives on the scene; the children Clara and Rowan go through an awakening and grow into their true selves; secrets and hidden desires are exposed along the way and mortals are dragged in, all of which threatens to tear their world apart.

The Radleys does something new with the traditional vampire folklore. The way in which their existence is weaved into our world, culture and society is well done, I particularly enjoyed the fact that Lord Byron, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and the Rolling Stones are all exposed as vampires! If you believe what this book tells you, Manchester is a particularly large centre of vampire activity. Their protective body, the Sheridan Society, you could almost believe to exist, together with the nighclubs and network which is there to support them and their tenuous relationship with the police.

The writing style is fairly economical, very short chapters meant I read this book quickly, yet there is plenty of humour and more than enough to keep you hooked, as you do empathise with the family despite what they are. The ending is rather predictable and all the loose ends tied up a little too conveniently, yet you feel this is the right way for things to end. The excerpts from the 'Abstainer's Handbook (Second Edition)' and glossary of terms at the end are also a nice touch to a thoroughly enjoyable book.


The Summer of the Bear
The Summer of the Bear
by Bella Pollen
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little slow to start, but ultimately satisfying, 8 July 2010
This review is from: The Summer of the Bear (Hardcover)
This is a gentle book, the pace starts quite slowly and doesn't really pick up until the last quarter of the novel. That's not to say it doesn't have its charms though, the development of the characters is excellent, the easy way the story unfolds is strangely hypnotic and there is just enough intrigue to keep you reading on and frequently I found myself saying, 'just one more chapter...'

The story concerns a family who have somewhat slipped from grace from within British diplomatic circles, following the mysterious death of father/husband Nicky Fleming in Bonn. After initially fleeing to London, they subsequently find themselves on a remote Scotish island where they have ties. The setting is wonderfully described, with a suitably bizarre yet believable selection of locals, which give frequently amusing distractions.

The mother in our story, Letty, is still shell-shocked by the suspected suicide of her husband and what that may mean, her oldest daughter Georgie is getting glimpses of an adult life away from her cloying family, second daughter and middle child Alba is very angry with the world and in particular with her younger brother, Jamie, who is struggling with the relaity of the loss of his father and the ways of the world in general.

The flashbacks to Germany gradually tell our story and reveal what really occured and using the setting of 1980's cold war Europe is suitably claustrophobic. Then there is the whole angle in this book of the bear... Whether purely symbolic or supernatural is open to interpretation, but this aspect of this story is what elevates it above the usual tales of family strife and adversity over hardship. Not my usual kind of reading, but I did get a lot from this book, so would hapilly recommend.


No Turning Back
No Turning Back
by Marcus Sakey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than lives up to the hype!, 30 Jun. 2010
This review is from: No Turning Back (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Despite what people have said in other reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end and for once it's nice to find a novel which lives up to the praise heaped upon it on the cover. I suppose it depends on what you're expecting, but the characters, setting, atmosphere and plot line were all very well done and the pace just right.

The novel concerns a group of four friends approaching 30, who are drifting through life and none of whom are really where or what they expected to be. They see an opportunity and rather naively plan to pull off a 'perfect' robbery, having been law-abiding citizens up until that point. As with most things, nothing in life is that simple, the situation quickly spirals out of control and they soon realise there is a lot more going on behind the scenes.

How each of the characters deals with the situation they find themselves in is what made the story for me, together with how this affects their previously undemanding frindship. Their true motives and characters come to the fore and they discover traits about each other that they were previously unaware of. I found the plot not far-fetched and the twist to the book is very contemporary and adds a nice moral angle.


The TV Detective
The TV Detective
by Simon Hall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever, taut and believable thriller, great little read!, 5 Jun. 2010
This review is from: The TV Detective (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the second book by Simon Hall I have read and I can safely say it won't be the last. The first of his detective novels I read was Evil Valley, which again featured journalist Dan Groves and DCI Adam Breen. It was therefore good to get a proper intruduction to these characters in this book, how they first met and developed both their professional and personal relationship. I now feel inclined to re-read Evil Valley with this background in mind and will search out further Groves/Breen novels Simon has written, the plot lines of one or more I believe are hinted at in this book.

The characters are very believable, we see enough of their character flaws, background and personal life to make them feel real to us, but this is book is still very tautly written, economical even and things move along at quite a pace. One of the best things for me is the fact there are no unbelievable plot leaps and sudden convenient breakthroughs in the investigation they are working on. I feel this must be due to the author's working knowledge as a crime reporter/journalist and knowledge of real cases and good old fashioned police work.

As with Evil Valley, I found the location of Plymouth both novel and nostalgic, as I was a student there in the mid-nineties and recognised most of the locations used in the book. It is therefore very atmospheric, right down to the familiar Devon weather and the scenes on Dartmoor are very effective, it being such a beautiful yet barren and unique location.

I won't give anything away, but the story itself is well done; the seeking of a murderer of a detested, ruthless local businessman and kept me guessing throughout most of the book. The suspects and various ancillary characters have just enough information given about them to make them realistic and as the story unfolds you come to realise they all have their part to play. There are other characters who come and go, who you feel will have an impact later in the story of Dan and Adam, particularly regarding Dan's lovelife! I look forward to finding out more...


The Blasphemer
The Blasphemer
by Nigel Farndale
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and thought-provoking, excellent book!, 17 May 2010
This review is from: The Blasphemer (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This novel weaves a lot of content into it's 400-450 pages, with multiple story treads and a wide range of topics, not least religion and Darwinism! It doesn't feel disparate however, and the weaving of the scenes from the First World War are particularly well done, the way in which actions from this time influence and pop up in the contemporary storyline are subtly handled.

Our hero, Daniel, is struggling with many things in his life, following a plane crash at sea. His ultimately heroic actions are overshadowed by a simple act of self-preservation, which ultimately leads to him questioning his very nature and personal beliefs, so this is a book about redemption and how the past can never been truly forgotten, but must be accepted and allowed to make us better people.

I found this book totally engrossing form the first chapter, but it feels like a book you want to savour, so I frequently reaced points where I stopped reading and let myself absorb what has taken place, before moving on. The story concerning Daniel's great-grandfather and his French lover is particularly touching and very tenderly written, the scenes of the relationship forming, where they are clearly nervous about showing their feelings, are quite beautifully done.

There are a number of heavyweight themes in the present-time sections too, such as terrorism and fundamentalism, which are treated with the respect they deserve and are not glorified or allowed to follow predictable stereotypes. The characters around Daniel; his partner, father, daughter, best friend and colleagues are all very believable and three dimensional and all help add different aspects to Daniel's life, some good and some bad.

I wouldn't hesitate in recommending this to anyone, it does deal with some weighty topics, yet the story is allowed to be the most important thing, which is quite a skill on the part of Nigel Farndale. Gripping and quite excellent.


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