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Emma Brown (Bradford, UK)

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The City Stained Red: Bring Down Heaven Book 1
The City Stained Red: Bring Down Heaven Book 1
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, 15 Oct. 2016
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The story is fast-paced, and has a good balance of humour and darkness. The characters are engaging, even when they're not likeable, and the flurry of questions the initial chapters throw up are answered in spades by the end, but with just enough ambiguity to make me feel I need to read the next book in the series asap.


Jumpstart Your Novel
Jumpstart Your Novel
by Mark Teppo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.21

5.0 out of 5 stars Planning novels for those of us who hate planning., 2 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Jumpstart Your Novel (Paperback)
I read this book while preparing for NaNoWriMo. I tend to find planning a novel sucks the life out of my ideas, but Mark Teppo's 9-box exercise helped me to make a basic outline, in the space of an hour, which I can use to keep myself on track. There are also plenty of tips that get you to think about novel structure, which allow for different approaches.

Whether you're a plotter, or a pantser, I think you'll get a lot out of this book.


CUNNING PLANS: Talks By Warren Ellis
CUNNING PLANS: Talks By Warren Ellis
Price: £1.27

4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, 31 Aug. 2015
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An interesting little collection of talks and essays about how we think about the future, with reference to technology, folklore, and speculative fiction. A nice companion to Ellis' fiction - regular readers will recognise themes which underpin his fictional work.


Civil War: The History of England Volume III
Civil War: The History of England Volume III
Price: £6.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyable, 24 July 2015
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A compelling account of the Stuart kings and the Civil War which split their reign, which pauses from time to time to add colour with vignettes of famous men such as Newton and Pepys.


Cherubim: Angeli Book II
Cherubim: Angeli Book II
Price: £2.41

4.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh and Interesting Take on the Supernatural, 10 Jun. 2015
Author Amy Vansant kindly sent me a free copy in exchange for a review, so I'll also be posting this to Goodreads and my blog.

Cherubim continues the story of Sentinel Anne Bonny, her boss (and sometime lover) the Archangel Michael, and her former (currently incorporeal) lover, and fellow Sentinel, Con. Angeli ended with Anne somewhere in Virginia, and Michael and Con in South Carolina, having captured the rebellious and unstable Archangel Seth. Cherubim begins a few months on from this, with Anne and Michael back at work hunting Perfidia, and Con watching over Seth, who he believes is the key to regaining his full form.

The story gets off to a cracking start as a new and unknown player, Rathe (even he isn't sure if it's pronounced wraith or wrath) shows up, and Seth manages to trick Con and escape. We then follow both Rathe, as he tries to figure out his purpose, and begins recruiting Sentinels of his own, and the Angeli-Sentinel team, as they track Rathe (who they believe to be a Cherubim) and try to discover why the Cherubim have started appearing at all. Seth also continues to intervene, once again pursuing his own agenda.

I won't spoil the final third of the book, but I will say that the set up for the reveal at the end was masterful - subverting my expectations, yet fulfilling the promise of an earlier conversation I'd half forgotten. While offering a resolution for the immediate conflict, Cherubim leaves the fate of several key players unknown, paving the way for the next installment, due in early 2016.

I thought that Cherubim took up the threads of the previous story well. Some plot points, such as Eris' fate, and Con's body being restored, are resolved, while others are clearly longer term arcs. Very few new characters are introduced, which I liked, because it gave the existing characters room to grow, and meant that those new characters could be fully realised. The central mystery of who sent the Angeli and why, continues to be explored, but we are drip-fed the information and left to put pieces together for ourselves. The fact that Rathe knows very little helps both that central mystery, and also any new readers; while I can't imagine why anyone would start with Cherubim rather than the first novel, Rathe's ignorance of the world allows the author to explain concepts like Perfidia and the creation of the Sentinels, without slowing things down with backstory.

Tyannah was also an interesting character, because she's the first Sentinel who seems to draw on mainstream considerations of good and evil when accepting the job. Her soul-searching about who to trust and work with is a nice counterpoint to the more opportunistic take on the benefits of the lifestyle espoused by other Sentinels. I also like that she got to take action, and build on the choices she'd made.

Anne felt less central to this book, as the story followed multiple viewpoints, and it feels like she spent most of her time being beaten up and tortured. While Anne is an established badass, and has the healing factor to take a few hits, it began to feel like things were happening to her so that other people were pushed into action. While I think that it's ok for heroes to ask for help, it still made me feel a little uncomfortable that other people's growth was coming at the expense of violence toward a woman.

I also struggle with the love triangle aspect of the Angeli novels, probably because I don't really understand the appeal of Michael. I think Anne and Michael broke up, but I'm not really sure, and she might be with Con but they haven't really talked about it - all of which felt like a bit of a distraction from the main story. The intense jealousy that all female angels apparently feel toward Anne over Michael also seems kind of unnecessary. It perpetuates the trope of all women in fiction being bitchy and fighting over men, plus, again, I don't really get why Michael is worth fighting for. I should say that the romance stuff only takes up a small part of the story though, and I'm not a romance fan, so other readers may enjoy that aspect.

The Angeli series continues to be a fresh and interesting take on the supernatural, and one that invites the reader to engage with the story rather than passively absorb information. I thoroughly enjoyed Cherubim, and will enjoy speculating on what Amy Vansant has in store for Anne and friends while I wait for the next installment.


British Politics For Dummies
British Politics For Dummies
Price: £11.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Useful, 17 Mar. 2015
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Factually solid and a useful resource. I've read other For Dummies titles and am used to the jokey format but this author seemed to take it to extremes, which was quite irritating.


Slightly Stalky: He's the One, He Just Doesn't Know it Yet (Slightly Series Book 1)
Slightly Stalky: He's the One, He Just Doesn't Know it Yet (Slightly Series Book 1)
Price: £2.31

4.0 out of 5 stars I Just Read This In One Sitting, 12 Jan. 2015
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This isn't the kind of book I would normally read, but Amy Vansant's tweets are outrageously funny and it was £1.99. Definitely money well spent. There's plenty of icky romance for those who like it, but leavened with cringeworthy funny moments, including a night time pratfall that made me laugh so hard I cried. Will be recommending this to everyone I know.


New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis Volume 1 (New Avengers (Paperback))
New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis Volume 1 (New Avengers (Paperback))
by Stuart Immonen Brian M. Bendis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite Avengers team, 15 April 2013
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I am a long time New Avengers fan and wasn't quite sure how the new New Avengers would fare in the post-Siege world. Happily the team retained many of my favourite characters and the dynamic was as great as ever.
I particularly liked the continuity as the story looked back to pre-Siege events with Dr. Strange, but also enjoyed watching the team, and Luke Cage in particular, figure out how to operate in the new regime.
I've also read the first volumes of Avengers and Secret Avengers and, while I enjoyed those too, I can safely say that neither have the balance of action and laugh-out-loud whimsy that characterises the New Avengers and makes them my favourite Avengers team.


English Grammar for Dummies, UK Edition
English Grammar for Dummies, UK Edition
by Lesley J. Ward
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.18

41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Playful and Informative, 17 April 2010
I needed to refresh my grammar prior to starting a new job, and found English Grammar For Dummies very helpful.
The book offers a comprehensive overview of grammar, starting from the basics and working up to more difficult concepts. I feel sure that I will dip into it whenever I get stuck in future.
While I enjoyed the lighthearted tone, and found the jokes fairly amusing, it did become wearing over the course of the book, and I would imagine that some readers will find it off-putting.


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