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Fifty Egg Timer Short Stories
Fifty Egg Timer Short Stories
Price: £0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Great Idea but Poor Execution., 14 July 2014
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I love the concept behind Fifty Egg Timer Short Stories a three minute short story is an ideal invention for the modern age of e-books and androids; I read most of these little tales whilst waiting for the kettle to boil or for those ten minute breaks you take at work when you just need to not think for a bit. And I had such high hopes.

Unfortunately, by and large, I was disappointed with the execution. For starters not everything here is a “short story”; many are, in fact, more like short essays, discussion pieces that provide an insight into the thoughts and opinions of the author, Richard Bunning. These, though interesting in and of themselves, are a little lost in this collection as they lack the length to make any thought-provoking and evidenced argument, though I do feel as though this wouldn’t be an issue had one been able to engage in conversation with Bunning afterwards. For these I feel that Bunning may find his work better suited to blogs and discussion forums.

The pieces that could reasonably be called a “short story” are quite well written, above all else I was struck by Bunning’s writing ability and felt that he had some real talent and an effective way with words. However, once again, these stories were limited by their length. Characters and background were squeezed hurriedly into the first paragraph, getting them out of the way to give the narrative as much space as possible to properly unfold. I could not help but feel that a more experienced writer could have combined both the narrative and characterization and allowed to two to develop simultaneously; Bunning’s inability to do that simply left me feeling unfulfilled.

I don’t wish readers to think that this is an entirely negative review, I must once again draw your attention to my praise of Bunning’s wordsmanship; there were a number of sentences and descriptions that resonated with me, provoking interesting, detailed and beautiful images. More than anything I feel that Bunning would do well to be more selective with his genre choices; in a number of the short stories I found myself waiting for a punch line that never occurred and feeling frustrated by the missed opportunities. What flaws Bunning’s work have would be easily forgiven were we to end on a comical high note, rather than a slow, and sometimes meandering, conclusion that just left me wondering what was the point in telling the story in the first place…

Sales Seduction: Why Do You Say Yes?
Sales Seduction: Why Do You Say Yes?
Price: £7.60

5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Insightful, 9 July 2014
The world of sales and marketing is a complex one, why customers choose to purchase one product over another, why they have allegiances to certain brands or preferences as to where they shop are all things that must be considered by potential sales people and marketers. Rondalynn Korolak has used her own experience and expertise to explore all these aspects and explain, in simple terms, what you can do to help increase your business sales and profits.

As someone with only a limited understanding of sales, with a total of eighteen months in telesales and commission based selling amounting to some of the worst weeks of my life, I found Korolak’s book easy to follow and understand. Moreover, I found myself wishing I had had such a guide all those years ago!

Breaking the complex science of consumerism and the results of technical brain experiments down into easily digestible portions that use straight forward language and clear guidelines Korolak has created a truly revolutionary guide to improving sales techniques.

But beyond all of this the book was actually interesting. The research that Rondalynn will have undertaken to compile such a collection of insightful ideas and fascinating facts is impressive; she presents them in such a fashion that each section is dotted through with surprising little facts about brain function and human behaviour. Her social and scientific finds compliment one another very well and, thanks to an accessible writing style, culminate in a non-fiction book that was a pleasure to read.

Varangian (Byzantine Histories)
Varangian (Byzantine Histories)
Price: £2.78

4.0 out of 5 stars Fast and Modern Historical Thriller, 9 July 2014
I am far from adverse to a bit of historical fiction, though I like most of my medieval drama with a healthy dose of dragons and magic, therefore, Vikings and Roman Emperors are not entirely unfamiliar to me; but I have never experienced them quite like this and even days after finishing the novel I still feel a little uneasy on my feet.

Predominantly a thriller Stuart G Yates Varangian is one of what appears to be a collection of historical thrillers titled the “Byzantine Histories”, and if Varagian is anything to go by then the series fulfils everything the title promises. Deception, intrigue, treachery and bloodshed abound in the story that brings two legendary cultures crashing together at a time when political unease and potential warfare were perhaps as present as they are to those of us living a thousand years later.

Centred around the story of a would-be Viking King, Harald Sigurdsson, and his experiences in the infamous city of Constantinople during the reign of Michael V; the story shifts narrators and allegiances with what seems like the turn of every page, builds one plot upon another and keeps the reader running at a steady pace always one step behind the story, desperate to keep up and get their head around exactly what is going on, who is betraying who and who we can really trust.

Lightening fast readers will love this, it’s so fast and sharp it almost hurts the eyes, others may find it a little convoluted and some aspects of the story difficult to navigate and unravel. If you want a dark, gory and edge of the seat thriller then Varangian gives you all of this in a well built and depicted historical context.

The White Mouse (World War II Series Book 5)
The White Mouse (World War II Series Book 5)
Price: £4.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Well Written and Well Researched, 8 Jun. 2014
As a fan of music, fashion and art that’s a bit vintage or retro I was drawn quite quickly into this historical fiction; set during the Second World War the White Mouse is well written and well researched, and served as an excellent introduction into the genre.

Telling the story of Nancy Wake Ficcoa, an Australian who helped prisoners escape from Nazi occupied France, the book is based on fact; this woman, Nancy, named the White Mouse by the German’s who hunted her, played a vital part in the war and saved countless lives all the while risking her own.

With a well developed central character, strong historical foundations and some nice supporting characters White Mouse was a pleasure to read; however what I liked most about the piece was its female heroine. So many strong women are confined to the pages of young adult fantasy fiction, which I admit I also adore, but to read of a real woman, the courage she had and risks she took is quite refreshing. The author, Jack DuArte has built an interesting and complimentary fictional life around this real heroine and it is the combination of these two facets of the novel that make it so enjoyable.

The Queen's Return
The Queen's Return
Price: £1.44

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Follow Up to a Fantastic Prequel, 8 Jun. 2014
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I have been desperately waiting for the second instalment of this series since finishing the first book last year; the story of Zabeth, her ghost brother Eli and her father’s fallen kingdom was so brilliantly written and engaging that I could hardly put it down. One year on author Mary-Ellen Lang Collura brings the exiled princess back to life, now a teenager and still lost and hunted in a desolate post-apocalypse America/Canada 300 years after Something Bad ended the world.

Genuinely creative and incredibly well thought out the world that Lang Collura presents to her readers is well developed and believable without being one of those fantastical landscapes that overloads you with description and explanation; I admit I was well armed with information from the previous instalment but I feel that even new readers will find this familiar yet strikingly different landscape easy to sink into.

What truly makes the books however is the characters, Zabeth is a strong willed and independent young woman, yet the insights into her thoughts and motivations are so intimate and moving at times that we are reminded that she is still just a scared and anxious fifteen year old. The other characters she encounters, some familiar some not, are also well developed enough to be definable as individuals but remain unobtrusive enough to not distract attention from our heroine.

The fantasy and mystery elements of the novel remain in perfect balance, the mythical world only complimented by the unusual circumstances and thrilling adventure subtext that walk alongside it. In short there is not a single thing that Lang Collura does not do well as a writer; she ticks all the boxes and promises readers a truly pleasurable experience.

Having said all of this however I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the previous one, perhaps this is simply because of my own genuine excitement at reading the sequel – the anticipation could never be truly equalled in climax – or perhaps it is that some of the more impressive and innovative aspects of the first piece have lost their shine through familiarity; whatever it is I just wasn’t as blown away by the Queen’s Return as I was by the Queen’s Key. Despite this I still recommend the book highly, it is a great sequel to an even greater debut and I remain eager to read anything else that may come from the author.

A Passing Curse
A Passing Curse
Price: £3.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Relentless, 14 April 2014
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This review is from: A Passing Curse (Kindle Edition)
A vampire-murder-mystery you say? Sounds right up my street. With a private love of a good old fashioned thriller and a taste for occasionally nasty horror I have to say it didn’t take long for A Passing Curse to draw me in.

A number of grisly murders in LA are being investigated by veteran policeman Reese Tarrant, whilst, almost on the other side of the world, archaeologist Penelope “Rusty” Webber is desperately trying to re-build her career after a fatal accident killed her boyfriend on her last dig. Where could these two unsuspecting characters possibly cross paths you ask? In Santa Marina of course, at the site of an old Spanish mission where staked and ancient bodies are being dug up and various fanatics brutally killed, the link? A millionaire vampire with a hidden agenda.

In a strange way the aspects of the story that you would expect to remain the mystery, is the elusive Ajax a vampire? Is he behind all these horrible deaths? Are revealed really quite quickly, turning this novel into more of a thriller with supernatural overtones; but these are not the questions that matter, not really. There is something more than the age old vampire story going on here and it is that aspect of A Passing Curse that kept me reading.

It wasn’t easy to do so however, the violence is graphic and unpleasant and at times I simply had to put the book down for a while, there was nothing particularly scary about the piece, this is not horror in such a traditional sense. I’m yet to decide whether I think this is an achievement of flaw of the authors; explicit violence and revulsion are perhaps blunter tools than the genuinely creepy horror that more stylish writers use, and yet it suited the overall tone of the book perfectly. The characters, who are quite stereotypical, need this sort of action to galvanize their actions, had any real questions about the existence of supernatural beings been raised to either Rusty or Reese they would both have quickly dismissed the prospect; the sight of such death and murder allow the narrative to move swiftly past this potential mystery to a place where one can really get their teeth into the meat of the novel.

Thought I read it in dribs and drabs, a couple of chapters at a time, allowing myself a little respite between each crime scene, I still felt in a way that I could not put this book down. I itched to know what was really going on beyond the surface of the events and, by and large was satisfied with the end result.

Yes, there was some clumsiness to the writing, grammatical errors, print problems, simple things that really should have been picked up by an editor and yes the author does have a tendency to rely on stereotypes and clichéd metaphors, but the action comes so thick and fast that it’s easy to get swept up in it all.

Island of Souls: Light within the Dark
Island of Souls: Light within the Dark
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Fiction but Not Ground Breaking, 7 April 2014
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Perhaps I’m a sceptic but as soon as I read the blurb for this novel I was dubious. Having lived a life of my own that has been filled with ups and downs I had very little faith in a book that promised to open my eyes to a new way of thinking and self reflection. And, although Island of Souls was an absolutely fascinating read, personally I can’t say I feel any more enlightened than I did previously.

I think the biggest problem for me was that I felt as though the author, Milan Ljubincic – who I am assured, is a world renowned psychologist, just tried to do too much in this one book. The symbolism is layered on too thick, the metaphors crammed in so that they appear clumsy and the allegory, at times, so blindingly obvious it’s painful.

Don’t get me wrong, I thought the book was really insightful and hugely different from anything I’ve read previously, but I simply felt that the claims it made went unfulfilled.

Having said that I do feel as though the book raises a great many questions about the understanding of self and fate and the direction of one’s life, I just didn’t find it the earth shattering piece of psychological literature I was promised.

The Presidents Club (The Barry-Hixon Conspiracy Book 2)
The Presidents Club (The Barry-Hixon Conspiracy Book 2)
Price: £1.99

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5.0 out of 5 stars Occasionally Flawed but Ultimately Brilliant, 4 April 2014
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With a rather bizarre but genuinely brilliant hook the President Club grabbed me almost immediately; the second book in the series about John Hixon, the muscle for hire body guard and human shield, begins with the sudden and rather upsetting death of an elderly man. From here the suspense and mystery spiral out to encompass a further seven men, all of whom share the names of previous American presidents.

Being a bit of a soft touch I have to say I found the violence and general unpleasantness of the Presidents Club a bit much, it’s not gory, gore I can handle, but the violent attack and death of a little old man was a bit much for my sensitive soul and the inclusion of a pack of dogs enlisted for fighting and ferocity just made me uncomfortable. Beyond this however there were few moments during the book that I was drawn, even slightly, out of the narrative.

The structure of the novel is excellent, Etier builds layer upon layer of understanding for the reader, deftly feeding information without ever giving too much away. On occasion I found myself feeling the first flushes of frustration, wondering where he was going with this or what the importance of this chapter was, but almost as though he’d read my thoughts Etier provided answers within pages, satisfying my curiosity just enough to keep me reading until the next point of unbearable mystery.

My only other issue with the novel as a whole was Etier’s reliance on stereotypes; there were just a few too many points at which I found myself reading painfully clichéd descriptions of characters, personalities and motivations. This kind of unimaginative writing is, by are large, restricted to the initial character introductions but it does get quite irritating when their occurrences populate a great deal of the first quarter of the book.

Overall the Presidents Club was a great book, full of suspense and edge-of-your-seat mystery, it’s certainly not the sort of book I would normally choose and I’m not entirely sure I’d be interested in reading any more of Etier’s work but, for those already interested in the genre, this is easily one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

Live It Sober: High-Functioning Alcoholic: The first Step: Recognition
Live It Sober: High-Functioning Alcoholic: The first Step: Recognition

4.0 out of 5 stars Well Written and Well Researched, 16 Mar. 2014
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Beginning with a short story about a nurse named Nancy High Functioning Alcoholic is less of a narrative piece than a self help/self diagnosis book. It is an interesting piece with lots of little tips on how to avoid slipping into bad habits around alcohol but ultimately I felt it lacked a bit of heart and I would have loved to read some more personal stories, hear the authors’ reasoning behind writing such a book and ultimately understand the more human aspect of the piece than simply be advised and, on occasion, patronized.

As someone who barely drinks there wasn’t a great deal in this book that I felt was particularly relevant, however the things discussed, particularly the snippets of advice and insights into how to manage alcohol safely were certainly very interesting; ultimately however I didn’t really feel as though I learnt anything I couldn’t have found out elsewhere.

What struck me was the way in which the personality’s of the writers came out in the writing, I think it was this tangible personality that made me hope I would find a more personalized story somewhere in the books pages.

All in all High Functioning Alcoholic is a well written and well researched piece, it does not flinch on the dangerous truths of alcoholism, however it lacks the personal touch that would have made the factual text all the more compelling.

Ralph Pincus, Occultist Extraordinaire Book 1: The Introductions
Ralph Pincus, Occultist Extraordinaire Book 1: The Introductions

4.0 out of 5 stars Full of Promise and Pitfalls, 27 Feb. 2014
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With an extremely graphic opening I have to admit I was really quite unsure of the future of Ralph Pincus: Occult Extraordinaire; but after a brief foray into the world of male masturbation and prostitutes the dark fantasy element of the story began to unfold and, once this begun I can not deny I was genuinely hooked.

Now I’m hardly the sort of person others would label as a “prude” but I really felt that Lambert’s insistence on throwing the readers straight in with a rather detailed description of an intimate and incredibly awkward situation was just showing off a little bit, maybe I’m just naive and that this is how thirty-something male room mates really live but if you ask me it was entirely unnecessary and contributed nothing to the ensuing story.

Quickly moving through this first part of the book I found myself introduced to Gabriel “Gabe” Andrews, an altogether far more interesting and imaginative character; the world that opens up around Gabe is filled with mystery; dark spirits, possessed children’s toys and gruesome death scenes are abundant and here Lambert’s talent for graphic and detailed writing is put to good use. This far more relevant and engaging aspect of the narrative trounces the book’s pointless introduction and even when Ralph is re-introduced later on it is easy to disregard Lambert’s earlier digressions.

My only other qualms are really only matters of form: the rather messy chapter titles, much like the irrelevant sexual content, distract from the book’s real strengths, and, in my opinion, could be discarded altogether. Also I could not help but find myself choking in shock when Lambert makes mention of a vampires’ “sparkling reflection”, I’m paraphrasing here but it just smacks a little too much of the tween vampire craze Twilight. As of yet this is not a fundamental aspect of the story and perhaps Lambert will avoid the pitfalls already associated with sparkly vampire pretty boys – the nature of his content so far makes this seem highly likely – but it raised red flags for me nonetheless.

An extremely short piece Ralph Pincus: the introductions is exactly that, an introduction and despite my problems with particular aspects of the book I am very much intrigued and eagerly await the next book in the series. Were the few clumsy mistakes mentioned above rectified I think I could mark this as a five star read.

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