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Camembaert (Northamptonshire, UK.)

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Lamb: A Novel
Lamb: A Novel
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A new look at an old story, 19 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Lamb: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
I’ll start this review by giving a fair warning: If you are a devout Christian then this book is probably not for you. For everyone else then it might be worth a punt.

The story tells the life of Jesus (called by his Aramaic name of Joshua in this book – Jesus is the Greek version, apparently. Who Knew?) seen through the eyes of his childhood friend Levi, known as Biff. It is plausible, amusing, funny in places and tragic in others. It offers a reason why the Three Wise Men, or Magi, turned up at Joshua’s birth and a good third of the book reintroduces us to them and provides a story that the bible doesn’t tell: A fictional account of what happened to Jesus after his birth and through to the start of his ministry.

In adult life the book describes Joshua’s ministry and hints at how the resurrection might have happened (which is why it’s not for the believers). I didn’t feel it was blasphemous in any way, but then I’m not devout so I probably haven’t got much of a say in that debate. Another warning: The Jewish people don’t come out of this too well, so if you’re Jewish and easily offended then this may be one to miss.

It is helpful if you can remember some of the bible stories about Jesus, so you can differentiate between the story told in the Gospels and the story Moore tells, especially during the final third of the book, but if you don’t know your bible you won’t miss out on too much.

I have no idea what life was like in the time of Joshua/Jesus, apart from what the bible tells us, but what Moore describes sounds authentic. There is a bit of a jarring note in the way modern language is used, but you can get past that.

Why only four stars? Well, it’s a bit longer than it needs to be. The story is told by Biff after he has been resurrected in the 21st century by the Archangel Raziel (yes him again), and all those bits of the book set in the 21st century could be omitted without losing any of the real plot. The only justification for this approach is in the last two pages of the book, so if the story had been told as a contemporary account the book would still have been as good, but considerably shorter.

Definitely one for the Moore fans, and for anyone who wants a very different take on an very old story.


Rome's Fallen Eagle (Vespasian Series Book 4)
Rome's Fallen Eagle (Vespasian Series Book 4)
Price: £1.89

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Back with the Army, 4 Feb. 2014
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For the 4th of his Vespasian novels Robert Fabbri has put his hero back where he belongs, in the ranks of the legions, as Legate of the II Augusta. Unfortunately the seniority of such a position means he is still embroiled with Imperial politics commencing with the assasination of Caligula and ending with an attempt by new Emperor Claudius's freedmen to drive a rift between the Emperor and his wife Messalina.

Following his apointment Vespasian must help to preserve his brother Sabinus's life (he's implicated in the plot to kill Caligula) by recovering the last of the three Eagles lost in Germania in an earlier campaign. This story takes up about a third of the book and isn't strictly necessary except to set the scene for later events which themselves only form a small part of the story.

The hostorical detail relating to the invasion of Brittania is excellent, though it must be remembered that firstly this is a work of fiction and secondly that the Romans themselves didn't document the invasion very well. The aithor's note at the end makes it clear how little is actually known about this campaign. This actually helps Fabbri as he can take more peoetic licence in his stroy telling.

The only problem I have is that knowing Vespasian will one day become Emperor these novels of his earlier life are unable to place him in the sort of life or death situations one normally experiences with a fictional hero because we know he is still alive in 69 AD and this story starts in 41 AD. Oh well, its good swashbuckilg stuff and I look forward to book 5.


When It's A Jar
When It's A Jar
Price: £6.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Yawn, 22 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: When It's A Jar (Kindle Edition)
There is one problem with this Tom Holt novel. He forgot to make it exciting or interesting in any way. Essentially we have five or six characters chasing each other round different universes for no clear purpose. Because there is always an escape route (anything with a hole in the middle) there is no peril. The only surprise is that the characters are so inept at making devices with holes in. I can do it with my finger and thumb but that didn't seem to occur to any of them. None of them even though to carry a tube of polo mints around with them, though there were a clear references to the utility of the sweet.

Following on from the previous book, Doughnut, we are back in multiverse territory again with a very unlikely and reluctant hero by the name of Maurice Katz. We are supposed, by the end, to believe that Maurice in one universe is a no hope slacker but in another he is a a multi-billionaire high achiever. Unfortunately its the same Maurice in both universes so its totally unbelievable, even with the suspension of disbelief. We are also supposed to believe that the love of his life, Stephanie (aka Steve) is attracted to this putz while also being a highly efficient warrior. We are never offered any evidence of the latter as Stephanie is either absent or appears in a different disguise.

The baddy is a guy named George, but he is so badly drawn he is as shallow as the rest of the characters. He is also absent from much of the book and Maurice just isn't interesting enough to carry the story line by himself.

Maurice's motivation to be a hero is to rescue the love of his life, who accidently got used as payment for the removal of a dead dragon. OK, I'll buy that, but to rescue Steve Maurice must first rescue both Max and Theo Bernstein, characters from the equally dire 'Doughnut'. Theo is the guy who created the multiverse by blowing up the Very Very Large Hadron Collider and Max is his venal and feckless brother. This rescue takes up most of the book and just serves to show how inept Maurice is, making his multi-billionaire alternate persona look even more unbelievable.

So bereft of ideas is this novel that Holt actually has to revisit an idea from a previous book (Valhalla) just to pad out the story for a few more pages. I did get one small chuckle. Half way through there is an reference to a goblin by the name of Mordak who runs a news empire. But that was about it for humour.

I have been a lifelong fan of Tom Holt, but he's clearly run out of intersting or amusing ideas now so I won't be buying any more of his books.


The Blood Crows (Eagles of the Empire 12): Cato & Macro: Book 12
The Blood Crows (Eagles of the Empire 12): Cato & Macro: Book 12
Price: £3.99

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Franchise That's Starting To Fade, 4 Jan. 2014
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With Simon Scarrow you always know that you're in a safe pair of hands, and I think that's the root of the problem with this book. Its so predictable that I could almost write it myself. Macro and Cato are sent on a mssion, it places them in danger, there is a conspiracy to have them killed, they survive. To base twelve books on this formula is really starting to stretch things, escpecially as Scarrow reminds us that the whole series of twelve books has only covered a nine year period. In that time Cato has travelled from one end of the Roman Empire to the other and has gone from buck legionary to Prefect. Unlikely in itself as it would take even the best soldier that long to reach the rank of Optio.

The story itself is OK, but very slow to get off the ground. The book is a third of the way through before the pair actually get into any serious action. That's an awful lot of scene setting! They are back in Brittania in 51AD, sent back to serve in the Legions once again. Cato (the brainy one) has been appointed Prefect of an isolated frontier fort and Macro (the muscle) is to be the senior Centurion of the garrison's Legionary cohort. Their common enemy for this story is the evil Centurion Quertus of a Thracian auxilliary cavalry unit who has been acting Garrison Commander of the fort since the death (in suspicious circumstances) of Cato's predecessor. Under Quertus the whole place has 'gone rogue' and Quertus is running amok massacring the native Silurians and it's Cato's job to reign them in and turn the garrison back into a proper Roman army unit again. Against this is the backdrop of King Caraticus's insurgency against Rome and by an improbable coincidence he appears outside the gate of the fort with a 10,000 strong army, outnumbering the defenders by about 20 to 1. Simon Scarrow has to make his two heroes escape certain death, which he duly does in an unlikely manner.

If it weren't for the previous eleven books doing pretty much the same thing in different ways this would probably be a four star read, but even the best stories start to get stale if they're retold often enough. I can only hope that Scarrow comes up with some fresh ideas for the inevitable book thirteen.


Raising Steam: (Discworld novel 40) (Discworld Novels)
Raising Steam: (Discworld novel 40) (Discworld Novels)
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Mystery Of The Lost Sparkle, 31 Dec. 2013
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I have been a fan of Terry Pratchett since I was first recommended The Colour fo Magic all those years ago, and have read every Discworld novel he has written, so it was puzzling to me to find myself reading Terry's latest work and finding something missing. I was about a third of the way through before I reralised what it was. That characteristuic humoyur that underpinned all Terry's other works was missing. The slightly sideways view of the world, the gentle parody and mocking htat made the books such a joy to read just wasn't there any more.

The story itself is OK. The railways come to Ankh Morpork and amidst the grab for a piece of the action Moist Von Lipwig (Going Postal and others) takes centre stage - at the Patricians insistance of course. Against this backdrop the other part of the story is played out, an attempted coup against the Low King of the Dwarfs. Other famillar characters come and go as the narrative moves forward. But always there's that something missing.

Unusually for Terry there are some extended passages of dialogue which I would have to describe as 'philosphical' but which left me baffled. I'm drew with the impression that no one had the bottle to tell Terry that they weren't that good, so they were left in as they were. There were lenghy sections of the book where nothing much happened. A lot of the book consisted of a lengthy railway journey and it felt like I was stuck on the train with the characters, living the story out in real time. Finally the sense of real danger was missing. There are actyion scenes where the good guys are placed in peril, but I never thought for a moment that they might actually lose or suffer a serious set back, so the peril was unrealistic. All in all I felt more as though the story was taking place in the town down the road rather than in a fantasy world full of wonder and mystery.

For Terry Pratchett fans I think this book will be a dispaointment and newcomers who have heard the fans talking will wonder what the fuss was about.


Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art
Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Work of Art, 23 Dec. 2013
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Its difficult to review this as a Christopher Moore work as its so different from anything else of his that I have read. Yes, it involves the supernatural, but otherwise its very different. First of all it involves art, and impressionist art at that. You don't have to know much about that genre, but it does help if you know the names of the artists of the period. These are the greats of the late 19th century and created some wonderful work. To find them now at the centre of a Christopher Moore book is slightly bizarre - bit then bizarre is what Moore does.

I won't try to describe the plot, all I will say is that it involves the colour blue, a mysterious woman, a sort of demon, some murder, a lot of syphillis and some painting. Christopher Moore manages to recreate the atmosphere of Montmartre in the late 19th century. It might even be said that he recreates it too well. I doubt I'll ever be able to look at my print of Le Chat Noir again without visualising Toulouse Lautrec sans pantalons. Not a pretty image to be left with.

The book is perhaps a little long, especially if you aren't into the art, but for fans its a great read and probbaly the best iof Moore's that I have aver read - and not a vampire or zombie in sight.


An Officer and a Spy
An Officer and a Spy
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking Stuff, 18 Nov. 2013
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After the horrendous Fear Index I was a little nervous about returning to a Robert Harris novel (what was he thinking?) but I’m glad I did. With this book Harris is back at the top of his game. I followed the advice of other reviewers and didn’t google the events or characters portrayed, and I would recommend that approach. Letting Harris tell the story his own way avoids thoughts such as “when is he going to get to such and such” or “so and so didn’t really say that”. This is, after all, a novel first and a work of history second. Some poetic licence is to be expected. However, Harris appears to be sufficiently faithful to the historical events he is portraying.

The book tells the story of the campaign to free Alfred Dreyfuss, an army officer who in 1894 was wrongly convicted of spying for the Germans . The story is told through the eyes of Colonel Georges Picquart who is appointed head of the Statistical Section, the French army’s intelligence gathering unit in Paris. Soon after his appointment he discovers the existence of another spy, Major Esterhazy, then realises that this spy was the one who committed the acts that Dreyfuss was accused of. This all happens in the early part of the book and the remainder is the story of the campaign to free Dreyfuss from his prison on Devils Island. One would think it would be an easy matter given the new evidence. One would be wrong.

If this was a work of pure fiction it might be hard to believe that the French Army could act in the manner that it does. It might make the book lack credibility. The fact that the officers involved really did behave that way is what makes this novel so fascinating. Throughout the story one wonders at the fact that the High Command would rather see an innocent man die alone on a rock than admit that there had been mistakes in the case against him. One also wonders whether it could happen in Britain today and the words Dodgy Dossier and Dr David Kelly keep springing to my mind.

So why only four stars? Well, the book is rather long and does flag a bit in one or two places. Some parts, such as the lengthy description of the Tsar of Russia’s visit to Paris and the social life of an army officer weren’t necessary, at least in so much detail. However, overall it is a very good read and tells me more about the Dreyfuss affair than Wikipedia could and in a more entertaining manner.


The White Queen (Cousins War Series Book 1)
The White Queen (Cousins War Series Book 1)
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars If you liked the TV Series you'll like this, 3 Nov. 2013
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Phillipa Gregory is a renowned historian who brings the Wars of the Roses to life in this book. Of course the conversations must be imagined, unless part of the published record, but they are believable and set in context they provide an essential part of the narrative.

Elizabeth Grey, nee Rivers, marries the newly crowned King Edward V, not long fater he captures the throne from Henry VI. The rest of the story is about Elizabeth's struggle to retain power and provide a legacy for her family. Ms Gregory doesn't try to make Elizabeth likeable and I suspect it would be a tough task if she did, but she provides us with a "warts and all" look at the court and the sort of people who helped shaped the world we live in today. Reading it you'll wonder how the monarchy lasted so long.

I would ahve liked a little more background to the Wars, to help me understand what had gone before. Much is hinted at but there' not a lot of detail before Elizabeth confronts Edward on the road to Northampton. I suspect this may be told in other books by Ms Gregory, but having not read those I couldn't really say.

For lovers of the recent TV Series you'll be pleased to know that the TV company stayed pretty faithful to the book, though I did notice that Sir William Stanley had been air brushed out. That was a pity because the book shows he was an influential figure. Anyway, The book does finishes on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth, whereas the TV series finished just after it.

I found that having seen the TYV series the book was much easier to read, mainly becuase it was easier to identify the major characters and work out how they fitted in to history.


Daily Mail Answers to Correspondents
Daily Mail Answers to Correspondents
by Greg Hill
Edition: Paperback

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you like this sort of thing, 3 Nov. 2013
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You either like this sort fof book or you don't, so presumably this review is aimed at those who like. It does what it says on the tin, using answers submitted by Daily Mail readers to questions that were also submitted by Daily Mail readers. All have been previously published in the newspaper. Interseprsed with the modern questions and answers are those from the original newspaper column which ran from 1896 to 1956. This book covers the period 1993, when the column was revived, to 1998.

Some of the answers are entertaining while others may get you snoozing. Its the sort of book you dip in and out of rather than try to read the way you would a novel.

The most entertaining answer, by the way, is the one that I wrote. I submitted many others, and had them published in the Daily Mail, but they didn't makwe the book. There is a follow-up book called Can Crocodiles Cry, which covers 1998 to 2007. I have an answer published in that as well.


Time Gentlemen (The Adventures of Jack and Joe Book 1)
Time Gentlemen (The Adventures of Jack and Joe Book 1)
Price: £1.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A clock with a busted mainspring., 3 Nov. 2013
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This book gets off to a very promising start, but very quickly runs into trouble. Part of this is because the author doesn’t seem to know if he’s writing a detective story, a sci-fi story, a comedy, all three or none of the above. As a detective story it fails because the “crime” is solved half way through the book in a way that cheats the reader. Part of the fun of reading a detective novel is trying to work out “who dunnit”. The major clues all arrive within a handful of pages and the crime is solved with half the book unread.

As sci-fi it fails because the science doesn’t work. History and the future are tampered with and no consequences occur which, as all Dr Who fans can tell you, is wrong. You can’t mess around with time without there being consequences.

Finally the comedy. That starts well enough too, but the one liners become few and far between and stop being funny. Then the author starts to rely on slapstick. There’s nothing wrong with slapstick, but it’s a visual form of comedy. What might be a great gag on film or TV doesn’t work on the page, and this is amply demonstrated many times over.

The lead characters are two brothers, Jack and Joe. Visually they’re the Blues Brothers and lead similar ramshackle lives. As detectives they’re so inept that they would make Clouseau look like a genius. Inept detectives are hard to manage properly anyway, but when they’re on BOGOF it doesn’t make them easier to manage. They’re just too thick to make the plot (such as it is) work. I won’t spoil the plot, but let’s say that I wouldn’t hire Jack and Joe to find my cat, let alone investigate a murder, which is what they start out doing.

There’s a sub plot about a character in a PC game (part of the Sci-fi thread) called Alyssa who seems to serve no purpose other than to provide someone for Jack to ogle. The PC game features heavily towards the end of the book to no purpose whatsoever.

The baddies aren’t even one dimensional they’re so badly written. Baddies are important people in a book. If you don’t understand them then the plot doesn’t work. So why does the “Instructor” want to rule the world? Where did he come from, when and how? Who are the three goons he uses? Who created the PC game and why is Alyssa’s character so important to it?

It’s easy to see the influences in this book. The Blues Brothers I’ve already mentioned, Clouseau of course, Ghost Busters, The Matrix, Dr Who, Avatar, Tron, Red Dwarf, Lara Croft and others. Perhaps this is where the problem lies. With so many influences being drawn on we don’t end up with a nice crisp story, we end up with a porridge of stories, all fighting to be the most important and each getting lost in the hubbub. The book doesn’t even serve as an homage to its own influences because it doesn’t treat them with respect.

The writing style, generally, is sound and there’s the germ of a good book somewhere, but not here. I probably shouldn’t offer advice, but my advice to Craig P Kelly would be to pull the book from Amazon, go back to basics and decide what story he wants to tell, then tell it without bringing in all the distractions. Cut it by a third, smarten Jack and Joe up in terms of their intellect, draw the other characters better, sharpen up the one liners and get rid of the slapstick. Who knows, you might end up with a real 5* read. A sequel is hinted at – I may have to emigrate to avoid it.


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