I was recommended this book by a friend, and having read the sample I was hooked immediately by the oddly discordant atmosphere evoked by a very parti...moreI was recommended this book by a friend, and having read the sample I was hooked immediately by the oddly discordant atmosphere evoked by a very particular use of language.
The intricate and clever way that Florence uses her words is always understandable but throws a nicely off-key tone into the narrative. We see everything through the lens of her language and it distorts people's actions and events just enough to make them seem strangely unnatural and stilted though the prose itself flows smoothly, having been put together with a beautifully Victorian eye for detail.
I won't go into the plot as there are plenty of reviews here that will tell you a bit about it; but this is a superbly uncanny piece with dark Gothic overtones and a finely-judged twist in the end. You might know that something is awry but the nature of the twist still comes as a surprise....
I really enjoyed this very unusual jaunt into Victorianesque unease Fans of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman should love this - and if you haven't read either, I recommend you do so! JAC (less)
Stephanie Plums fans will love this entertainingly mad thriller-romance-comedy!
Written very much in the style of Janet Evanovitch, but with a strong d...moreStephanie Plums fans will love this entertainingly mad thriller-romance-comedy!
Written very much in the style of Janet Evanovitch, but with a strong dash of the surreal, The Secret Diary is an entertaining jaunt through a mad world of Miami real estate, pill-popping neuroses, TC's "Phantom fish-flingers" and would-be English Lotharios. Alice, the heroine, is a very engaging character; a tough, sassy woman whose efforts to sort her life out go strangely wrong and yet who manages to sort herself out with none of the eyelash-fluttering, hanky-dropping ineptitude that is my main reason for avoiding romance.
She tries very hard to persuade herself that Nigel Channing is her Mr Right - and although it is very funny to read, she is written with enough humanity and truth that you might be laughing but it is with her rather than at her, and you don't think "Stupid woman!" so much as recognise the times you've done the same...
Of the other characters, Maris is entertainingly nuts; Leslie chews the furniture with great elan; Ron is pitched just nicely, supportive and low-key; and actually I rather liked the over-the-top rantings of Elizabeth, which might have been a bit too much in a different book but in the context of the whole "Alice-in-Wonderland" theme were fairly apt. The Lewis Carroll quotes were nicely placed and flavoured the text without giving too much away at the beginning of each chapter!
If I had to criticise, I would say that the ending is a little on the abrupt side and I would have liked it to go just a little slower so I could savour the downfall of - the person who ends badly (no spoilers here!), but other than that, a couple of places where the (UK) English doesn't quite flow and the odd set of stray speechmarks in places, not much I didn't like about it.
I don't really do 5 stars because it seems over the top, but in this case I did dither over it for some minutes before caving; my only criticisms are...moreI don't really do 5 stars because it seems over the top, but in this case I did dither over it for some minutes before caving; my only criticisms are very minor really.
This is the story of Caz Tallis, who makes a meagre living restoring rocking horses. She finds a man and dog asleep on her sofa and, reacting with more courtesy than you'd expect in such a situation, finds herself befriended by a legendary rock star back from the dead - and that's before the action really kicks off!
The characters are well-drawn, believeable and the type of people you do actually want to hang around with. Ric is - well, as you imagine he would be, Caz is feisty and compassionate but never tiresome, Jeff is obnoxious-but-sympathetic, and of the other characters, the eventual baddie is splendidly, unredeemably manipulative and ruthless, and at least one of the good guys has potential to develop in interesting directions in the sequels (will be buying them to find out!)
How to classify the story? Difficult until they make a tag that says "Cinderella-detective-humour with added rocking horse action" but actually, and as an aside, I was quite fascinated by the rocking horses as well....
If I had to find something to criticise in this story,it would be purely a matter of format, and a detail at that.***(see Update at bottom)*** Every new chapter follows on the same page as the old one, and in places the page-breaks are awkward. I'd prefer the new chapter to start on a new page just to avoid the formatting calling me back out of the imaginary London. Otherwise a stonking read though.
....I should probably warn you, I started reading quite late at night just to get a taste for it and finished the damn thing around 2am entirely by accident... I can recommend reading it. JAC
UPDATE: Having seen the comment re chapter-page-breaks, Lexi has now fixed this so 5* and no quibbles! JAC (less)
I downloaded the sample of this book after seeing Ali on the forums, where several of the others had praised it greatly. I dithered a bit because it r...moreI downloaded the sample of this book after seeing Ali on the forums, where several of the others had praised it greatly. I dithered a bit because it really didn't sound like my sort of thing, but downloaded the sample out of curiosity and by two paragraphs in had bought the book.
The first thing I noticed about "Girl on a Swing" is the intricate, almost poetic use of words (this was what sold me on it). If you want a taste of the writing style, definitely have a look at the sample but bear in mind that while the sample covers the beginning which is quite still and slow, the action gets more intense and exciting later in the book.
The story is told in the first person, mostly in the present; the heroine, Julia, lives a very isolated life, emotionally speaking, and this is communicated with the barest minimum of implications but permeates everything else. In some ways her life seems much less real than her remembered lives - at the beginning of the book I had a good idea of what was going to happen, and then it baffled my expectations at every turn, which is always gratifying!
It is very atmospheric; very gripping; and very unusual. The only reason for which I gave it four stars rather than five is that when the action comes to its climax, I would have liked to have heard a little more from Frank about what / how much he remembered, just to give the ending a little more symmetry and definition. (That said, you don't notice at the time because you're so into it; only when savouring the aftertaste of the book, so to speak.)
It's such an unusual book, with such a fresh use of words; it's very powerful. Julia isn't cheerful, and yet she's leavened with enough cheerfulness from other characters that you're certainly not left in a cloud of depression. The development of Julia from her grief and isolation in the beginning of the book to the better, happier, more fulfilled self as she finds relief from various sadnesses at the end works quite naturally and is ultimately rather uplifting.
Should you try it yourself? Absolutely yes. And bear in mind, if it's not your sort of thing - it's not my sort of thing either! But excellent things are, and this is excellent. JAC. (less)
Threads is a work that can be read on many levels; it is a complex and very unusual book. If you're looking for a rumbustious bodice-ripper, this may...moreThreads is a work that can be read on many levels; it is a complex and very unusual book. If you're looking for a rumbustious bodice-ripper, this may not be the book for you;the story as it deals with Anne and Henry's relationship is more an assimilation of the information from several different autobiographies, put together thoughtfully and with a real attempt to sieve through the gossip and slander and make sense of both characters in a very human and sympathetic manner.
On a separate level, Threads is about love, hate, forgiveness and betrayal, specifically between Anne and Henry in their various incarnations, but also as concepts; the effects they have and the repercussions they cause.
And lastly, this book is an intelligent, deeply-thought-through discussion of what the afterlife might be like, what it could be for, and how an entity could learn and develop through subsequent lives in different situations, times, and social positions.
I found it a very sad read, but I loved the intellectual side of it, and Nell Gavin does a wonderful job of making the relationship between Anne and Henry make sense - and then imbues it with more significance by laying it alongside their (and other characters') interactions in previous and subsequent lives.
If I have a criticism, it is simply that there is no real sense of closure. Even at the end, you're not at all sure that the eventual ending (no spoilers here!) is a good thing or not. It does leave you with a sense of things unfinished and continuing - but then as that's the point, really, I suspect that's more the author's choice than any omission.
It's a very interesting book to read, and most unusual. Don't start it when you're feeling depressed, certainly, but if you have a taste for a leisurely exploration of what love is and what it is for; what it can do to the lover and the beloved; and what might come after death, then this is the book for you. JAC (less)
I bought this book immediately after finishing Origins because I was so gripped by the storyline (though slightly vexed by the typos and formatting er...moreI bought this book immediately after finishing Origins because I was so gripped by the storyline (though slightly vexed by the typos and formatting errors). This second instalment is equally good and I would say slightly less typo-ridden - but still has a noticeable amount.
We are introduced to the Captain, Jacob Valence, who has no knowledge of his past except that he has a daughter...He is a ruthless bounty hunter, but as he interacts with his crew it is revealed that he is an excellent leader and engineer. His crew are a series of interesting and believable characters, and given that anyone who has read book 1 knows about the original Captain and the real identity of his "daughter", it is really interesting to see how the character differs in this book.
You can read about the plot above, so I won't duplicate it here, but suffice it to say that once again Lalonde has assembled a highly complex and believable cast of characters, put them in a series of exciting and suspenseful situations, and just at the end has thrown in a couple of real curve-balls. Just as the story arc appears to be coming to a conclusion, there is both a tantalising hook of new complexities, and a highly unexpected twist. So far so gripping; however on the down side,just like the first book, this superb story is once again larded with formatting issues and mistakes that let it down badly, and once again these are all that stand between it being on a par with a professionally published book.
So, that was my take on it; but should you read this book? Probably; depends on how much you care about the typos. If you won't notice them, then do so because it's a great story; but if that sort of thing knocks you out of your suspension of disbelief as badly as it does me, then be aware that the errors are plentiful. Still a good story, but it might spoil your enjoyment.
Will I go on to read book 3? Hmmm. I'll definitely download the sample and have a look, but all these typos irritate me because they break the spell of the story. If there comes a time when the series are proofed and corrected, I'll buy the lot in one go, but until that point I'm reading them and thinking how fabulous they could be, rather than are, and all for want of a little more accuracy.
Pity, really - they would be well worth the extra effort. JAC
PS Update 16/06/2011 - From the author's blog: “[New assistant] is currently assisting with proofing on Spinward Fringe: Expendable Few. She'll also be working on the rest of the books with me as we get closer to presenting final edits. The focus is on new work right now, so the earlier books will get more attention when the next two are out.” http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.com/2...
Firstly, a disclaimer; I have chatted to Ali Cooper on the forums. That has not affected my opinion of her book in any way but if you feel it invalida...moreFirstly, a disclaimer; I have chatted to Ali Cooper on the forums. That has not affected my opinion of her book in any way but if you feel it invalidates my review, feel free to skip to the next.
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Cave is not an action-thriller; it won't make you claustrophobic or afraid. It doesn't blind you with the science and jargon of caving and nor is it anything like "The Descent" or other horror-type flicks. This is caving for people who love the thrill of discovery and finding new and strange wonders which may never have been seen by anyone ever before, and it is artfully depicted and explained. A nice touch is that each chapter is headed by a caving term and its definition, which simultaneously allows for enough jargon to flavour the conversation with authentic terms, while avoiding the need for a glossary.
For the most part, though, the cave itself is predominantly a strange and wonderful backdrop against which the characters play, highlighting their motivations and interactions in a way that would not have been possible (or half as interesting) if it was set up a mountain or on a hill somewhere.
And what about the characters? They're an interesting set; I recognised each of them, not as someone specific but for their similarity to character-types I have met.
Marty is the protagonist, rapidly approaching middle-age and blissfully unaware of how appalling he is with women; there is the apparently feisty Beth who seems to be moderately easily manipulated by the men around her. Rick and Joe, Fish and Taff, all of them strike a chord. They are an engaging gang who have matured into slightly more problematic circumstances than they hoped. I won't talk about plot here as it's probably covered by the other reviews and the blurb; but the interweaving of Marty's predicament and the gradually unravelling backstory was done with a deft hand, and although I disliked the main character for the damage he was doing those around him, I also felt engaged enough by his bafflement that I certainly didn't consider putting the book down. The timeline jumps around, but not to a confusing degree and the patchwork of memories slowly amalgamates until we see the shape of the whole story beginning to emerge. Details of character and plot seep out in a slow reveal that uncovers new questions as fast as it answers the old ones.
There are some very clever elements about this book. For a start, Ali Cooper has managed to write a character that I disliked from one end of the book to the other and yet still I enjoyed the book heartily; that takes no small amount of skill. I never noticed Marty not acting like a bloke, which is always a difficult trick for a female writer; and one of my favourite characters in the whole thing was Carole, who has virtually no "screen time" of her own, so to speak, but gradually grows to be a rounded character in her own right despite the fact that we only hear about what she is doing from the rather disenchanted point of view of her (soon to be ex-)husband.
If I *had* to find something to criticise (and it's taken a bit of thought to do so), the only possible quibble I have is that Ashley Roberts is not as rounded a character as some of the others; but then that is partly because that sort of character riles me in real life, so I have less patience for them in fiction; and that's not a comment so much on the writing as it is on my reading.
The formatting was impeccable and there were no typos or errors that I noticed, even with my pedantic head on. The characters were believable and engaging even when not being particularly likeable. The caving was fascinatingly written - I have been caving twice, enjoyed it both times but am too unfit for that sort of thing generally; that said, reading this almost tempted me to go back and try again! And the character Spratt is a lovely touch.
So to summarise; of the two, I personally enjoyed Girl on a Swing more, but it's pretty high praise to say that this is of a similar standard, and confirms me in the opinion that when a new book comes out with her name on the front, it's probably going to go straight onto my Kindle without further ditherment. I enjoyed Cave and can think of no reason to give it less than 5 stars.
Would I read it again? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? I would and already have!
Cave is not a happy book, but the twists and discoveries along the way will keep you hooked to the end, and fascinated along the way. If you like a well-written tale with an unusual, fresh perspective, a compelling plot and engaging characters, this is for you. (less)
I’m always a little wary of having over-high expectations of a book on the grounds that I liked the author’s other works because unless they involve t...moreI’m always a little wary of having over-high expectations of a book on the grounds that I liked the author’s other works because unless they involve the same characters in the same world, it doesn’t always work that way; but having read and loved ‘Remix’, I picked up ‘Replica’ in the assumption that what I had before me would be as well-written, well-formatted and sharply edited as her first book. I was not disappointed.
‘Replica’ tells of Beth Chandler, who on finding that her planned evening with her feckless boyfriend has fallen apart, is persuaded to let herself be subjected to the trial-run of the replicating machine on which her boss, the Professor is working. Getting back out of the machine, she is told that it did not work and is only mildly dismayed at the loss of her evening; however, what she does not know is that in the receiving end of the replicating machine in the other lab lies Beth Two - a perfect, thinking, fully-functioning copy of herself.
Beth Two fairly quickly realises what has happened; but she also overhears the Professor arguing with his unscrupulous boss over the potential fate of the replica and whether she can really be said to be a person, and therefore possessed of basic human rights. Being no fool, Beth Two flees; and Beth One, all unwitting, suddenly finds her life crumbling around her. Due to what she is told is a terrorist death-threat, she is moved to a safe-house, a new job, and watched around the clock by security men who are hoping that the replica Beth will come to the original for help.
This has the potential to be a very confusing book but due to the neat trick of telling Beth One’s story in the third person and Beth Two’s story in the first person, there is never any confusion as to who is saying what. Beth Two is thrown into a fugitive lifestyle while Beth One is protected and provided for, and the gradual difference made in their character by the circumstances is an interesting theme that emerges as the story develops. So too is the romance between Beth One and the hunky man from MI5 who she thinks has been set to protect her; he cannot tell her that his task is really to deal with the replica if she should appear, so while he is falling for the original Beth, all the time he must be prepared to “get rid of” Beth Two who is identical to Beth One in all respects; another intriguing ethical twist.
The development – or lack thereof – of the respective Beths is alternately exciting and full of suspense; the characters are engaging and believable; and all told, ‘Replica’ is another sterling effort from Lexi, quite on a par with ‘Remix’ and a lot of fun to read.
Should you buy it? Yep; no reservations. If you like this sort of story, you’ll love this one! JAC.(less)
I like sci-fi and had seen a lot of positive comments on Randolph Lalonde's work on several forums, so coming across this in the course of an idle bro...moreI like sci-fi and had seen a lot of positive comments on Randolph Lalonde's work on several forums, so coming across this in the course of an idle browse, decided to have a look.
I loved it - for a start it's a long, character-driven story where we see the main character develop from an idle, unfulfilled worker in a fairly undemanding job into a new challenge where he has to suddenly take responsibility for a crew and negotiate them through a series of dangerous events.The ending is sudden and dramatic and leaves you with enough of a taste for the next bit that I clicked on the link and bought the sequel on the spot.
It has four stars because though it has been finely edited, it could do with a final proofing - there are only a couple of typos or spelling mistakes that I noticed (and I am something of a pedant for that sort of thing) - but given that I would consider it to be fully of professional standard on everything else, it seems a pity to leave those last couple in.
So, should you buy it? Yes, if you like sci-fi and probably if you're not read enough sci-fi to be sure (though in that case, read the sample first). The typos are rare (ie fewer than in some ebooks I've bought from traditional publishers), the character development is believable and interesting and the story gripping and pacey. I really enjoyed reading it - I'd guess you probably will too. Highly recommended. JAC(less)