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If
If
Price: £1.15

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Complete waste of money, 27 Jun. 2012
This review is from: If (Kindle Edition)
'If' is a 32 line poem which is long out of copyright so freely available both on the internet and on Amazon in the Kipling collection Rewards and Fairies. This e-book of If is the equivalent of only four pages long. I would have thought that the poem is so famous that most people would be aware that it's pretty short, but clearly not as this poem frequently appears high up on Amazon's best selling poetry chart, hence the need to warn people about what they're buying. The publishers should be thoroughly embarrassed that they're charging for this.


No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Please DO NOT buy, 12 April 2012
These beads are NOT suitable for a teething baby. No one in their right mind would give a baby a selection of stones tied together by string. The seller should be ashamed.


The Unicorn Crisis (The Hidden Academy Book 1)
The Unicorn Crisis (The Hidden Academy Book 1)
Price: £0.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant debut fantasy, 19 July 2011
One thing is clear from reading The Unicorn Crisis - Jon Rosenberg has a powerful imagination. In this novel he has created a fully realised alternate reality, occupied by elves with an addiction to daytime TV, angry Hindu deities and a long-lived and magically talented version of Christina Rossetti.

The result is gripping and at times I didn't want to put the novel down. Jon Rosenberg has a particular and rare talent for dialogue and can run a page of rapid fire speech without the reader losing track of who said what. On the downside, some of early sections dragged in pace a little, but this seemed to be largely down to scene setting and was made up for by absolutely brilliant final third with a final battle that reminded me of the Sword in the Stone.

I would definitely recommend this novel, particularly to fans of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman or Doctor Who (and wouldn't David Tennant make a great Ash?). I bought the sequel, The Digital Wolf, as soon as I had finished the last page.


The Third Policeman (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
The Third Policeman (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
Price: £5.24

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On your bike..., 10 July 2011
The Third Policeman is a far from easy novel to describe. I could relate the basics of the plot - murderous Irishman comes across a rural police station where the officers have an obsession with bicycles - but that's really not the point. It's funny, its surreal, its clever... but then so are lots of novels. There's just something special about The Third Policeman that makes it far more than the sum of its parts.

It's a novel which should appeal to fans of Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Laurence Sterne. At times it's a bit like The Trial, rewritten by James Joyce as a Monty Python sketch.

Put simply, The Third Policeman is utterly brilliant. And I'm not going to spoil it by revealing any more.


I, Lucifer
I, Lucifer

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad enough to be good, 10 July 2011
This review is from: I, Lucifer (Kindle Edition)
I, Lucifer is an entertaining novel, undoubtedly, and Glen Duncan is a talented writer, but it's also a novel saddled with a major flaw that stops it from fulfilling its potential.

The problem is Lucifer himself. He simply isn't bad enough to be a convincing Devil and his exploits on earth are somewhat adolescent. He has sex; he takes drugs; he eggs people on; he plots much worse things but never carries them out. This might have worked if the book was about a minor demon, but Lucifer himself...?

Duncan's Lucifer is on a par with an annoying rock star rather than the nastiest villains of literature. Think Patrick Bateman, think Hannibal Lecter, think Clockwork Orange's Alex - he doesn't even come close. At best - or worst - he's like a cruder version of Lestat at his most needy and irritating... but lacking the bite. Duncan tries to make him witty and intellectual, but if you know as little as a spattering about poetry, the Bible and Christian history his comments aren't going to tax you. He's Humbert Humbert lite, which is a shame because a self-justifying Humbert-inspired Devil would have been a really good proposition.

Still the novel kept me reading, it was just a shame that it missed out on much bigger and better things.


Severin's Journey into the Dark
Severin's Journey into the Dark
Price: £5.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't reach its destination, 29 Jun. 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed the first part of Severin's Journey into the Dark. The start of this two-part gothic novella is dark, sinister and disturbing, with an impending sense of doom as the eponymous antihero, Severin, spirals downwards into his own hell. The conclusion of part one hinted at great things to come.

The problem was the part two simply didn't live up to that promise. Several plot lines were never fully developed, opportunities were missed and the drama of part one's finale just fizzled out. After Severin had journeyed so far in part one, the start of part two brought him back close to the start of his travels and he never again got quite so deeply into the dark mysterious world around him as he did in part one.


Twenty Tiny Tales
Twenty Tiny Tales

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Wit!, 29 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Twenty Tiny Tales (Kindle Edition)
I first came across Willie Wit's short stories on the Amazon Kindle forum and was instantly hooked. Each one of these twenty examples of flash fiction, or very-short-stories if you prefer, is a fine example of the genre. Every story in this collection has a unique and clever twist and guessing what it will be is usually impossible.

The range of stories here is particularly impressive. Most will make you laugh, but there are a couple of poignant ones in there, such as Keep Moving, which will leave you with something to think about. My particularly favourites were the Overtime series and Siddartha, which I thought had the most unpredictable twist of the lot.

As the title suggestions, this collection is very short, but each story is a real gem and the creative force behind each one is clearly apparent. A highly recommended read.


Bluebeard (Penguin Modern Classics)
Bluebeard (Penguin Modern Classics)
Price: £1.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perrault, not Carter, but magical all the same, 29 Jun. 2011
The title of this book is extremely misleading. This is not Angela Carter's Bluebeard at all, but rather Carter's translation of Charles Perrault's Bluebeard and some other fairytales. It's a bit naughty of Penguin not to make this clear in the blurb, where the tales are described as "playful and subversive retellings", rather than making it clear that they're actually fairly faithful translations. I suppose it was the only way for them to include Carter in their Mini Modern Classics series, as most of her work (including her own set of fairy tales, The Bloody Chamber) is published by Vintage or Virago.

But leaving the fact that this is actually Perrault and not Carter aside, this is a little gem of a book and the fact that Carter kept close to his original works is a bonus. Most versions of Perrault's tales are all too familiar, but Carter's translation perfectly captures the satire, wit and elegance you would expect from a 17th century lawyer at the French court.

So it's one star for Penguin's marketing tactics, but five for Perrault's original tales. Readers expecting Carter's darker, modern retellings will be disappointed, but Perrault's originals offer a surprisingly fresh outlook on all too familiar tales.


Phoenix Man
Phoenix Man

2.0 out of 5 stars Falls far short of the hype, 29 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Phoenix Man (Kindle Edition)
I'm not sure what New Scientist was thinking when it described Gary Kilworth as "the best short story writer in any genre". On the evidence of The Phoenix Man, that certainly isn't the case.

Undoubtedly the ideas behind Kilworth's stories are good - better than good in some cases - but they just don't follow through. Countless times I began one of the stories in The Phoenix Man and was dazzled by the concept in the first few paragraphs only for the plot to peter out and the writing fail to live up to the initial idea.

12 Men Born of Woman bucked the trend and delivered a strong plot to match its idea and I also enjoyed On The Eyelids of a Wolf, but the rest simply left me frustrated with their unfulfilled promise. I certainly won't be following fiction recommendations from New Scientist in future.


If On A Winter's Night A Traveller (Vintage Classics)
If On A Winter's Night A Traveller (Vintage Classics)
Price: £4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Books That Are Not Quite As Good As They Should Be, 5 Jun. 2011
There are great ideas at the centre of If on a Winter's Night a Traveller. Italo Calvino's most famous work is a cornerstone of post-modernism, a rare novel written in the second person which consists mostly of the opening chapters of other novels. It's clever, it's quotable and it's definitely original.

Unfortunately while some of the novel sizzled with genius, some of it was just tedious. Some of the novel openings were electric and I would have loved to read on, but other parts were turgid. It's also a novel that feels dated and must even have done so when it was first published in 1979 - stylistically it's much more similar to authors such as Brecht and Beckett than other books of the same era such as early Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie.

Another problem with the novel, which is no fault of Calvino's, is the translation by William Weaver which I found to be clumsy in places. An excess of commas and clauses in unusual places made it frequently obvious that I was reading a book that hadn't been originally written in English.

However, I did enjoy reading the novel and found Calvino's imagination impressive which is what saved it from a lower score. But ultimately, although we're taught to think the original should be the best, If on a Winter's Night was nowhere near as good as its literary descendant Cloud Atlas or Calvino's own Invisible Cities.


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