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AGH (Hampshire, UK)

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Guy Erma and the Son of Empire
Guy Erma and the Son of Empire
by Sally Ann Melia
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, well worth a read for fans of fantasy and sci-fi., 2 Jun. 2015
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Firstly a warning that this review is a bit academic in nature.
I want to end positively so I'll start with the negatives - the things that I believe will hold it back from a larger market appeal and that frustrate me because there is so much about this book I love.
It needs more publishing editing attention. While I found no spelling mistakes there are some out of place words and there are some sentences that could do with reworking.
There is a convention in fiction writing for tagging pieces of speech so you know who is talking and this is not it:
The Emperor took her head between two hands and pulled her close: "Poor Saygin. Poor, poor Sayginn. Let me protect you."
I found the "colons" method of speech tagging distracting. A publishing editor should have changed this to something like:
"Poor Saygin," The Emperor took her head between two hands and pulled her close "Poor, poor Sayginn. Let me protect you."
or put 'said the Emperor' on the end of the speech. Granted this did not damage the understanding of what was written but I found it distracting.
Story structure - there are well known an well observed rules regarding this which bestselling authors such as JK Rowling, Dan Brown, Suzanne Collins and many more observe to keep the dramatic flow going and ensure the right aspects of the plot, character and setting are exposed at the right time. The inciting incident which I presume to be “the son of empire” Teo’s kidnap (which is not spoiling the plot now the 3 part edition of this story carries this title) that should appear 20% earliest and ideally 25% into the story happens way too early at about 16%. Just as I was getting into the set up phase and enjoying (yes, I did enjoy this book) getting to know the setting and characters things suddenly kick off.
Why is it too early?
We don’t know enough about Teo and what is at stake when it happens which robs the inciting incident of dramatic impact. Following on from the event we get to learn more about why Teo is important (above the fact his mother loves him) and since the future of the Dome city is at stake we get introduced more to the Dome unfortunately after “the event”.
Because this set up exposition comes later the plot slows down when we should be watching the protagonist and friends respond (mostly ineffectively if plotted right) to the inciting incident. It’s not the only flaw in the structure but that gives you an idea.
Who is the primary protagonist in this story we should be focusing on rooting for?
In the beginning we get Guy and Teo introduced, then after the kidnap the story is off mostly following Karl Valvanchi and the Regent Sayginn (Teo's mother) to the point I begin to wonder if the book should be titled after these two characters.
It is 70% of the way into the plot before Guy and Teo (son of empire) meet properly and the main resolution to the plot seems to be Teo's actions (which are very cool).
For a “5 star grabbing a bigger YA audience” point of view these are some of the problems in my opinion. Harry Potter may be about many characters that we may root for, but we always know most of all we are behind the boy who lived, or Katniss in the Hunger Games, or Bilbo/Frodo Baggins, or Robert Langdon in the Da Vinci Code or Luke Skywalker to pluck some of the biggest sellers out there as examples.
I just don't know with Guy Erma and the Son of Empire because the plot just doesn't focus enough on either these two for me to know who I’m meant to focus of rooting for.
OK the positives.
There is plenty of action and for the most part the plot does move along at a good pace. The imagination behind the setting and characters is first class. I love all the cy-fauna, the Dome itself, Goran’s and the creepy emperor. There is a good sense of politics behind it all and Guy’s world as an orphan aspiring to the Dome Elite is very well realised with lots of little intriguing bit’s like the question of his parentage thrown in. I think there is a world here that could carry off many more stories.

Only The Dead: An African War
Only The Dead: An African War
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter the Liberian jungle..., 13 Nov. 2014
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I was planning to read this after finishing another longer novel I'm reading. I thought I'd read just the beginning out of curiosity. A few days later having spent any spare moment I had reading it I'd finished.

There is an immersive writing style at work here which I prize in a writer when I can find it. This writing style along with plenty of interesting events happening all the time (a fast pace plot) quickly drew me in.
You feel like you are in the Liberian jungle with Mark.
It is often the case that an immersive writing style comes coupled with plodding slow plot progression. That is not the case here.

The real treat in this story is the well observed and well developed characters. It's all about Mark (sometimes called Mak) a private security operator (don't call him a mercenary) and his relationship with Kyle a journalist in the Liberian jungle during a civil war. Things go bad and they have to escape to civilisation. A simple enough concept done well and infused with human psychology. The story is told in the first person from Mark's perspective. The way the relationship evolves between the two men as their situation becomes darker is beautifully handled with turning points in the action and their relationship coming at well-timed points in the story. It feels realistic and believable. It is sometimes quite touching without going over the top with sentimentality. Perhaps the presence of violence in the story highlights this further.

From an academic perspective I am fairly sure I can see a story structure I recognise at work here. The right things are happening in the right phases of the story which is complete with plot points in the right places that keep up the dramatic tension. It is very well done.

M W Duncan has another "post-apocalyptic" novel out "Carrion City" set in Aberdeen Scotland I believe. It's not the kind of novel I'm normally drawn to but after reading Only The Dead I'm thinking I need to add it to my "to be read list" for some time next year.

Baghdad Operators : Ex Special Forces in Iraq
Baghdad Operators : Ex Special Forces in Iraq
Price: £3.59

5.0 out of 5 stars It takes a very special kind of person to do a job like this, 4 Nov. 2014
I read this book in a few days over Christmas 2013.
I found the real life accounts of the protection missions they conducted to be fascinating and soon found myself spending every few spare moments of the day with this book in my hand. It tells the tale of how a small group of UK Ex-Special Forces guys built up a private security company operating in Iraq.
You get a real impression of a country tearing itself apart from within faster than private security firms, private contractors trying to rebuild the countries infrastructure (power stations for example) and the US forces can put it back together again.
It takes a very special kind of person to do a job like this and not everyone comes home in one piece.
I found it inspirational for a fiction novel I am working on.
Sold in aid of the Help for Heroes charity.

Red of the Woods
Red of the Woods
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A dark and grisly take on a classic fairy tale, 22 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Red of the Woods (Kindle Edition)
Call it 4.5 stars, I'll explain why I can't quite give it the whole fifth star at the end.
Imagine it's Halloween night and you are planning a camp fire with ghost stories for a 13-15 year old to adult audience. This would be a perfect choice for that event. It will take you 20-30 minutes to read as it is a short story.
I'm a lover of fantasy fiction in general and have always loved dark and different takes on fairy tale type stories. This one twists Little Red Riding Hood into something not for young children. I'm slavering like a hungry wolf in anticipation.
The sense of immersion into the setting is excellent, descriptions vivid and compelling and the quality of writing high. It flows very well and as others have already said the editing and proof reading is around about perfect - I never noticed a fault.

Why not the whole fifth star?
In a few places I felt the writing fell into telling and not showing. In one or two places some event happens and the narrative predicts the reaction. Then in the next chapter that reaction takes place. You lose a bit of micro tension that otherwise would be there. This only stands out as the rest of the writing is of such a high standard and I am a bit picky about this sort of thing.

I look forward to some of Lana Axe's other longer works making their way to the top of my reading list.

I received a copy of this book for honest review.

Steelheart (Reckoners Book 1)
Steelheart (Reckoners Book 1)
Price: £1.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well crafted page turner, 22 Aug. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A well crafted plot with good characterisation from a story engineering perspective with more or less all the right ingredients in the right place. Coupled with Brandon's vivid imagination it succeeds in keeping you turning the pages and building dramatic tension. The prologue is a great hook into the story which you can read for free, so if that appeals to you jump on board for the ride.
Written in the first person from the perspective of the eighteen year old David with ambitions to join the Reckoners, a group dedicated to fighting the evil "Epic's" in possession of a variety of super powers following on from an event known as the "Calamity". The narrative does feel like it comes from an eighteen year old man with David's background which naturally places certain limitations on style and content. I quite enjoyed the humour introduced by David's own assessment of his ability to produce fitting metaphors during the telling. Coming from the mind of an eighteen year old character I suppose you do loose a little depth in the telling but I'm not going to criticise Brandon for that. He's decided that is how he is telling the tale, in some ways it works better this way as it is logical certain revelations come later in the story when only seen from David's perspective.

Its the first Brandon Sanderson book I've read, I will definitely be reading his Mistborn series later and more from the Reckoner's when they are published.
This is a easier faster to consume novel than many heavy weights in the fantasy genre which is exactly what I was in the mood for. I needed a break after reading Tad William's Dragon Bone Chair before I pick up the sequel to this one. Anyone who has read the Tad Williams' Memory Sorrow and Thorn series will know it is heavier going and slower moving but ultimately probably more rewarding that a shorter tale like Steelheart. But there is a place on my bookshelf and in my Kindle for both kinds of novel.

Yes five stars because I think the author succeeded in what he was aiming to do, it was clever enough, with a thought provoking enough theme and a genuine page turner. Falls only a little short of the perhaps mythical perfect book.

Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold: Magic Kingdom of Landover Series: Book 01
Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold: Magic Kingdom of Landover Series: Book 01
Price: £6.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect piece of hope and escapism, 23 July 2014
Already a Brook's fan I first read this book when I was 16 years old when it first came out in 1986. Very different from Brook's Shannara series though. It is one of only two books I have ever read twice, Tolkien's The Hobbit being the other.
Here I am 28 years later reviewing it on Amazon as I've just discovered much to my excitement it is in the early stages of becoming a Warner Brothers movie.
For anyone who has been in the world of work long enough to have become used to and perhaps bored by the career they once were once excited by, this book offers a perfect piece of hope and escapism. For everyone else an engaging and fun tale.
Ben get's out of the the grey world of the legal profession into a lovable colorful magic kingdom full of life threatening challenges and leverages his skills of a lifetime to face them. While he's at it he finds someone who might just be the new love of his life, an unusual girl named Willow... who is sometimes a tree, no prizes for guessing which type.
Perfectly and wonderfully silly as are the g'home gnomes, the first of his allies which seem more of a hindrance than a help on his quest.
It's one of those stories you read and think someone should have written it before but they haven't. Perhaps that is what "a classic" really is. I've long since read the rest of the series and they do get a bit darker but picking each one up is like rediscovering a group of much missed cherished friends.
It's a book that defies classification into an age range, anyone with enough reading skill for an adult text and upwards. A light and often light hearted read, easy to access and hard to put down. I suspect it will soon become the only book I've ever read 3 times.

Acer Mini Converter Port Cable To VGA / RJ45 / USB 2.0
Acer Mini Converter Port Cable To VGA / RJ45 / USB 2.0
Price: £29.55

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It works, 25 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It works, its compact and easy to use. What else can you say to fill up the required number of words for these reviews?

The Shock of the Fall
The Shock of the Fall
by Nathan Filer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and Immersive, 25 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Shock of the Fall (Paperback)
A few reviewers have criticised this novel as the output of a creative writing course.
When you read the author Q&A at the end of the book it is clearly something else.
It is the output of someone who was serious and passionate enough about the story he wanted to tell to go on a creative writing course to be able to tell it properly.
Story first, ability to write it second.
End result is excellence.
Yes it is hard to follow in places as the memories are rearranged like furniture in Matthews mind (Nathan made up the furniture simile not me) and I think that is why it is chaotic in places. I'm taking that as a clever bit of creative writing to communicate the feel of Matthews condition and create suspense.
I don't normally read this genre of fiction but found it among the most compelling books I have ever read.
I spend enough time writing myself to be able to claim to be an amateur unpublished part time author (like 10,000's of others) and I'm going through the "desperate to tell a story and learning how to tell it properly process" myself.
Nathan's success here shows hope that it can be done.

Lenovo S6000 10.1-inch Tablet (Black) - (Quad Core 1.2GHz Processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, WLAN, BT, 2x camera, Android 4.2)
Lenovo S6000 10.1-inch Tablet (Black) - (Quad Core 1.2GHz Processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, WLAN, BT, 2x camera, Android 4.2)

68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch tablet, bargain price, 15 Nov. 2013
It's under £200.
It doesn't have a fancy apple retina display "just" a superbly crisp high contrast with rich black background IPS display.
Set brightness on 25%, install and run Kindle and set Kindle brightness to minimum and you have an eBook reader that's comfortable to read on for hours.
I've had retina display iPads in my hands before and can't really se a difference in quality with this.
The Lenovo is slick and fast transitioning between landscape and portrait modes very smoothly. Touch screen is responsive and the case design good for the price.
You have to be really picky to consider the case sub standard compared to more expensive iPad etc.
The whole family loved the Lenovo straight away. One of my all time favorite computing devices and I've encountered thousands in my 23 years as an IT consultant.
You don't have to be a technical expert to use these things I hasten to add.
That is part of the appeal of tablet computers in general, simpler and easier to understand than a conventional computer.
Simply brilliant.
You can spend two, three or more times this amount on a tablet computer but you don't need to.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 25, 2014 12:15 AM BST

Lg Nb3520A Sound Bar
Lg Nb3520A Sound Bar

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular without breaking the bank, 18 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Lg Nb3520A Sound Bar (Electronics)
We didn't want a room full of wires and speakers with a 5.1 surround sound system and were looking for something that can be both the main home music system and something to resolve the issue that most modern flat screen TV's have barely adequate or even pathetic built in speakers. There isn't room in the case for anything decent.
Curry's had it on offer at £180 at the time we were also buying an LG 42LM760T TV (January 2013). Staff told us we needed to buy an optical cable for £10 but that's not true as one is included. At least I can connect my XBox directly to the sound bar (which has 2 optical inputs) with this cable.
Set up is really easy, just plug in the power and optical audio cable and your off. The separate sub woofer speaker just needs to be plugged into power and after a few seconds it links wirelessly via bluetooth to the sound bar. The sub woofer is essential really, regular TV viewing is "OK" without it but you need it for music and feature films.
We noticed that synchronisation of sound with the TV speakers was a bit out, perhaps by 0.25 of a second. Fortunately there is an option to adjust the timing offset with these speakers, but as our TV speakers are so bad and cause vibration with modest volume levels we've disabled the TV speakers in the TV settings anyway. According the the user guide this sound synchronisation adjustment can be used if the sound appears out of sync with the picture. This did not seem to be the case for us. I'll say at this point that we are very happy with the LG 42LM760T TV as we didn't expect acceptable sound from the 10w built in speakers. Up to 300w is available from this sound bar system and half volume is about as far as we need to go for the loudest of music playing.
The sound quality and depth is truly spectacular unless your expectations are set at a level that only a high end £1000's hi-fi system will satisfy. Playing music and reading a book is suddenly as rewarding as watching a good film.
At first my wife complained about the lack of graphic equalizer but once you've experimented a bit with the different sound settings you learn which setting works best for what your listening too. Voices and string instruments (guitar, violin) seem to sound best with "CLRVOICE", rock music works bet on "BASS" or "BYPASS" and TV watching "NATURAL". The 3D sound mode is probably best kept for watching films. I experimented with it while watching "winterwatch" on BBC TV which has a mix of indoor and outdoor scenes. During the Outdoor scenes the 3D effect was very atmospheric, but when the scene changes indoors the system almost seems to turn off the 3D effect in a rather abrupt fashion.
"NATURAL" is probably the best all round mode and "NIGHT" mode is useful when you don't want to wake people sleeping in the house as it dulls sound frequencies that will travel through walls.
I think true "audiophile" enthusiasts are likely to want more sound adjustment options than this, but I expect such people are likely to have one of those £1000's hi-fi systems in addition to this for their TV.
With classic music and acoustic guitar you can really pick out the fine detail in the playing. Put on some rock in "BASS" mode, crank up the volume and you can shake the windows and walls throughout the house.
You need to be mindful of your neighbours!

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