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Mark Syder (Prescot, England)

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The Summer Boy
The Summer Boy
by Henry Mitchell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Omniscient Narrator Makes It Difficult To Get Into The Story, 31 July 2015
This review is from: The Summer Boy (Paperback)
This is my latest review for the Alfie Dog reading panel.

I found it a struggle to work out what age group this book was intended for. At times it felt as if I was reading a modern version of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, but then I would encounter a word that was too long for a children's novel or (even worse) a paragraph that took up more than a page (Kindle version). This left me wondering if it is more of a "Discworld" type fantasy.

Although this is not a genre I usually read, please don't conclude that that is the reason I have given only two stars. The writing was my main problem. The author sometimes starts certain nouns with a capital letter, although there is no logical pattern to this. I also noticed a tendency to use a comma where I would expect to see the word "and". To be fair to the author, I have noticed this in other novels by American authors, so I suspect grammatical rules may be different in the USA.

By far the biggest problem I had with this novel was viewpoint. There can be two or more viewpoints used in the same section and large chunks of the story are told from the viewpoint of an omniscient narrator. Fiction writers are always given the advice "Show, don't tell". The use of the omniscient narrator in this novel left this reader feeling that I was being told the story rather than shown it. This made if difficult for me to feel any sympathy for the protagonist. To be brutal (just in case I haven't already been brutal) there were times when it felt as if I was reading the first draft, before the author had decided which viewpoint a chapter should be in.

I was going to give three stars but I found the end of the story inconclusive (which can be a good thing, but I found it disappointing in this case) and deducted a star for that.

I'm sorry to be the first person to give this book a negative review after the glowing tributes it's received so far, but it would be dishonest of me to give more than two stars and pretend I'd enjoyed the book.

Dexter by Design
Dexter by Design
by Jeffry P. Lindsay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Not Many Outings for the Dark Passenger - Perhaps a Good Thing, 26 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dexter by Design (Paperback)
If you're only familiar with Dexter from the television series I would advise reading the books in order as they follow on from each other logically.

Assuming you've read the earlier books in the series I would recommend this one. The Design in the title is, I suspect, inspired by the designs of the bodies found by the Miami police: body parts have been removed and been replaced by (to give just one example) a flower arrangement. Dexter goes on the hunt for the killer so his "dark passenger" can do what is necessary.

The dark passenger has a surprisingly small number of outings in this story (which is possibly the reason for some of the one and two-star reviews) but this is made up for by other aspects in the story: Deborah's knowledge of her brother's secret and the dilemma it causes her (loyalty to family or to the law?) and Dexter's training of his adopted children's dark passengers.

In summary, the story line is developing rather than each book being a clone of its predecessor. If you enjoyed the earlier books I expect you will enjoy this one.

The Lifetracer
The Lifetracer
Price: £2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Well-Written Whodunnit, 6 July 2015
This review is from: The Lifetracer (Kindle Edition)
This is my latest selection from the Alfiedog Readers' Panel. It is a well-written story about Connor Bancroft, a reporter and private investigator, trying to solve a series of murders. The crimes all have one thing in common: there is a "lifetracer", a sort of electronic calendar/diary, left at the scene of the crime.

One word of warning (potential spoiler) - in the description it tells you that Connor's son's life is in danger. The danger takes the form of an abduction. As a father I do not enjoy reading about child abduction (even though both my children are now adults). If I had been aware of the abduction, I might not have chosen this book. Please do not infer anything about the result of the abduction from my comments - I don't like reading about child abductions regardless of the outcome.

It's difficult to be a writer of "Whodunnits": all the clues to the murderer's identity have to be in place otherwise the reader will feel cheated. On the other hand, if all the clues are in place, you have to accept that some readers will pick up on those clues and work out who the murderer is before they reach the end. I was one of those readers, but I don't consider that to be a problem - it only becomes a problem if a large percentage of readers guess the identity of the murderer.

As I said in my last review of one of Rosemary's books, because I have been given a free copy of a book written by the Managing Director of Alfiedog Books, I feel the need to include a few minor criticisms. If I don't, I'm concerned that readers of this review will question my sincerity.

1. "She'd insist that everything was done her way". In my opinion, this sentence would read better with a subjunctive: "She'd insist that everything be done her way" (I told you the criticisms were minor!).

2. '"I should think so." He said, kissing her on the nose.' This implies (to me at least) that he was talking and kissing at the same time, which I'm pretty sure is impossible.

3. "Neither one of them noticed". For this little Englander "neither one" is an Americanism too far! "Neither of them noticed" would be my preferred way to write this.

4. "You're brother in law" should read "Your brother-in-law". I'm sure this is merely a typo, as the distinction between your and you're is correct everywhere else.

Please don't let these minor criticisms put you off reading the book - they really are nit-picking and did not spoil my enjoyment of the story, so there's no reason why they should spoil yours.

Love Bites
Love Bites
Price: £8.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia Is What It Used To Be, 26 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Love Bites (Audio CD)
Having lost my original copy of this many years ago I was a little concerned that it might not have aged well. I had nothing to fear - this album has certainly stood the test of time.

I was confronted by song names that seemed vaguely familiar, but once I hear the opening chords it was as if those songs had never left my life. Real World is the opener and is a very lively track - a definite highlight. This is followed by the song that persuaded me to buy the album all those years ago - Ever Fallen In Love. For this listener, this is by far the best track on the collection.

The third song is Operator's Manual. Next time you hear someone claiming that Punk Rock musicians were talentless, refer them to this song. I'm thinking particularly of the chorus, where the time signature switches from 4/4 (standard pop/rock) to 3/4 (standard waltz). They may not like the song, but they would struggle to argue that the time signature change doesn't require talent! Another highlight for this listener.

Next we have Nostalgia - another lively highlight. The next few songs are merely good; ESP's catchy riff making it the final highlight of the original album.

Moving on to the additional tracks, most are good but with very few highlights. Disc two starts with demo recordings, some of which are very basic and would not have been missed if they had been omitted. The final demo track, Mother Of Turds, consists of the title and little else - I cannot understand why this pointless track has been included.

Finally we have some live tracks from the Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1978. These are all good.

In conclusion, the original album is worth five stars on its own (given the price Amazon are charging) so my criticisms of the demo tracks cannot justify the removal of a star.

The Appearance of Truth
The Appearance of Truth
Price: £3.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Story - But Be Prepared For Some Late Nights!, 17 Jun. 2015
This is an interesting story about a lady trying to trace her origins after finding that her birth certificate is actually that of a child who died in infancy. If you make the mistake of reading this in bed, prepare for a late night as you constantly want to read just one more section to find out what happens next.

This is my latest selection for the Alfiedog reading panel. As it was written by the managing director of the company I feel obliged to make a few negative comments to prevent people from questioning the sincerity of my review! Rest assured, these criticisms are minor and did not affect my enjoyment of the story.

1. I had to suspend disbelief at the amount of interest the press showed in the story of a 30-year old trying to trace her birth parents. Given the unusual circumstances, I accept the possibility that I am wrong about this.

2. There are a few spelling mistakes.

3. There is a discrepancy in the timeline. A character has an answerphone message stating that she will return to work on Monday 6th November, but it soon becomes clear that 6th November is a Tuesday. Most people probably wouldn't spot this - I only noticed because my birthday is in early November and I noticed that it had moved by a day.

4. By far the biggest problem I had with the book was the use of the word "whilst" as a synonym for "while". In my experience, this is only ever used in formal writing; never in speech. "Whilst" is repeatedly used in dialogue in this book, no matter how informal the conversation. This struck me as so unrealistic that it tended to take me out of the story.

Despite those minor criticisms, I enjoyed this book and recommend it.

In the Kitchen With a Knife
In the Kitchen With a Knife
Price: £3.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Enjoyable Read, 23 May 2015
This is my latest selection from the Alfiedog reading panel. On the rare occasions that I read a crime novel it is usually something like Dexter, where the identity of the killer is known from the start. It's very unusual for me to read a "whodunnit" and it came as a pleasant surprise that I enjoyed this book so much.

The story centres around a lady who has moved to a quiet village to escape from a bad relationship. She finds herself living in a cottage that was the scene of a horrific double murder 30 years previously and, when she asks questions about the murders, she is told in no uncertain terms to "keep your nose out". When the identity of the murderer is finally revealed, I have to admit that my reaction was surprise rather than "Of course! All the clues were there!", but that may be simply because this is not my usual genre - a reader who habitually reads this kind of novel might react differently.

Being used to the more graphic Dexter-style crime novel, I was surprised at how light-hearted and at times humorous this book was. You'll never look at a Volvo the same way after reading this! Despite my surprise, I have to say that the style worked very well.

In conclusion, I will be making a note of this author's name because I am keen to read more of her work.

Lawrence Opus LMS07 Sheet Music Stand with Height and Angle Adjustment - Black
Lawrence Opus LMS07 Sheet Music Stand with Height and Angle Adjustment - Black
Offered by Dawsons Music
Price: £23.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Top Quality Music Stand, 20 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this to replace a cheap stand that I'd borrowed from my son after one of the arms broke off and I am very glad I did. For not much more money, this is a very good quality stand. It is self-assembly, but assembly is very intuitive and doesn't need instructions. It is very easy to adjust the height and angle of the stand to suit the individual.

The spring loaded clips that hold music books in place are very flexible and can easily be positioned so as not to block your view of the music. The top part of the stand is large enough to accommodate an open music book very easily. The feet are broader and therefore sturdier than those on the stand I was using previously.

Overall I cannot fault the stand and cannot possibly give anything less than five stars.

Price: £11.61

5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Lively Collection Of Tracks, 20 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: 1989 (Audio CD)
I have only recently discovered Taylor's music and am very pleased with the deluxe version of this CD.

The opening track, Welcome To New York, has three notes constantly playing in the background - this reminded me very much of Baba O'Riley by The Who (the theme tune to CSI NY for those of you unfamiliar with The Who). The track is very enjoyable and is, for this listener, a highlight.

I don't know whether it's Taylor herself or her co-writers, but someone has the knack of writing catchy choruses that stick in the mind and turn a good track into a highlight. Examples include Out Of The Woods, Shake It Off, I Wish You Would, Wildest Dreams, and I Know Places.

Shake It Off has an opening that is reminiscent of Mickey by Toni Basil, but is an enjoyable song in its own right.

Most of the music is lively and energetic, so special mention should be made of This Love, which is softer and moodier than the rest. This track is another highlight.

The final highlight for this listener is one of the bonus tracks, New Romantics - this song probably makes it worth paying the extra for the deluxe version.

I have to admit that the three "voice memos" at the end do little for me, but it would be a five-star CD even if they were excluded so I can't justify removing a star.

The Vampyre; a Tale
The Vampyre; a Tale
Price: £0.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Less Horrific Than A Grimm Brothers Fairy Tale, 18 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a very tame offering that is less horrific than (for example) Hansel and Gretel. It is worth reading for historical interest as it spawned many later vampire stories, including my favourite Carmilla.

The story merits two stars as it is a moderately interesting account of the ordeals suffered by the main character. The writing, however, is very difficult to read. There are numerous sentences which are extremely long and suffer from a change of subject part way through.

In conclusion, it is worth reading this story if you are interested in the origins of the genre or if you are a vampire completist. If neither of these applies to you, give it a wide berth.

Up The Garden Path
Up The Garden Path
Price: £2.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Enjoyable Collection From A Talented Writer, 18 May 2015
Having already read one of Patsy's collections I knew I was on safe ground asking for this to be my latest selection for the Alfiedog readers' panel. The collection starts well with a story I would describe as a romcom. There are plenty of surprises in the following stories, some of which will amuse the reader, and others which will surprise.

Several of the stories are of the "women's magazine" variety, and therefore not what I would usually read from choice. These are somewhat tamer than the stories I generally enjoy, but I would stress that this is a reflection on the genre rather than on Patsy's writing.

Overall this is another good collection and I would have no hesitation in reading more of Patsy's work.

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