Book Review – Legend by David Gemmell

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I first read Legend in my teens and loved it. Recently I was prompted to read it again and I’m delighted to say it has stood the test of time.

There are lots of reasons to like this book. It has a great cast of characters, covering both the traditional hero figures and the men who serve under them. The plot is well done, similar to other stories of a small force holding out against a much larger one, think of films like The Alamo, The Magnificent Seven, Zulu, 300 etc., and the writing is tight if a little functional. That sounds like a gripe, but actually the style suits the book perfectly.

The thing that struck me this time was the wonderful feeling of claustrophobia of a story which is mostly set in a very small gegraphical area, namely between the seven walls of the fortress of Dros Delnoch. This has the effect of pulling you right into the centre of the action, so that when you stop reading it’s like you’ve come up gasping for air.

I’m now going to have to add his other books to my ever expanding TBR list.

Do you have any books you’ve reread after a long time? Did they stand the test of time?

If you fancy a quick fantasy read, why not try The Path Of Swords? Six reviews on Amazon UK and they’re all 5 star.

www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071LBJNTC for the UK

www.amazon.com/dp/B071LBJNTC for the US

The Fellowship Of The Bling

I’ve discovered a way of becoming a successful author, and that is simply to give your book a title that is very similar to another very successful book. You see I thought I had bought this book:

But I had actually bought this book:

Some time ago I got one of those Amazon emails offering books at sale prices and thought: “I’ve heard of that, probably worth a go.” So I paid my 99p, downloaded to my kindle where it sat for some considerable time among all the other bargain books I haven’t got around to reading.

Then my wife read The Girl On The Train and said how good it was. She then watched the film on the plane and remarked how she didn’t like it compared to the book. All this prompted me to start reading it myself. It was only when I was about a quarter of the way through and we started to talk about it that I realised I was reading a completely different book!

I have to admit at this point that this may have coloured my view slightly, in that I felt a little bit conned. Having said that I did read it to the end and actually quite enjoyed it, in a light holiday read kind of way. All in all it left me a little conflicted so I looked up the reviews on Amazon:

So you can see that although it’s not The Girl On The Train it is pretty successful, in fact it’s sold a lot of copies, although how many were bought by people who thought they were buying something else is impossible to know.

Note:Spoiler alert

If I was to review Girl On A Train it probably wouldn’t be a good one. I know I said I quite enjoyed it, but on reflection it is a load of old tosh to be honest. It starts off pretty well with our heroine, Anne, investigating the suspicious death of a girl, Elly, that she happened to sit next to on a train. Turns out that Elly has left all sorts of clues that Anne tracks down in a kind of low budget Dan Brown Angels and Demons style but set in Brixton rather than Rome. Her motivation for this is that she doesn’t believe Elly committed suicide, and she knows about such things because her (Anne’s) husband killed himself 2 years previously because he was gay (!). It soon appears that the whole thing might be related to the abduction of Elly’s 2 year old nephew also 2 years previously. The problem is that it starts out a bit far fetched and then just gets more and more unbelievable. I’m pretty good at suspending disbelief but this had me going “Oh come on!” by the end. It also had a completely unnessessary section in the middle where the story up was retold from the point of view of Elly up to the point where she died. This added nothing to the book and felt to me like the author had just stuck it in to make the book longer. Also one of the characters does one thing that is completely out of character, the act simply does not fit with the way they are portrayed. The character is question, Lewis, comes in as a nice guy, a policeman who takes Anne for rides on his motorbike and gets her heart all a flutter. He looks after his drug addicted sister and is acting as stand in parent for his tear away 9 year old niece. Then it turns out he was Anne’s gay husband’s secret lover (what!) who raped Elly (!) because Elly found out he was gay and that was his way of shutting her up.

I didn’t get that bit either.

It turns out that Elly didn’t commit suicide, she was attacked by the niece with a stun gun that she bought off the internet and that made Elly fall in front of the train, and the gay husband didn’t commit suicide either, he just had an argument with Lewis, dramatically climbed onto a bridge in a kind of ‘if you don’t love me I’ll kill myself’ moment, and then fell off by accident.

So there you go. I’m now going to write The Fellowship Of The Bling so that loads of people buy it by accident and I make a pile of cash. I’ve already got the start.

“One Ring to rule them all. One Ring to…Hey don’t gimme that one ring crap! Nobody wears just one ring! I want at least ten! And a gold chain!”

 

I need a little help!

To all you marvellous people in blogosphere, I’m asking for a little help.

It’s just over 4 weeks until The Path Of The Sword is released on Amazon (looking at 15th May) and it would be wonderful if you could do something to help get the word out.

Here’s what you can do and any of these would be a great help.

  1. Like this post.
  2. Tell people.
  3. Share this post via reblog, Twitter, Facebook etc.
  4. Go on my Twitter @someidiottalk and retweet the pinned post.
  5. Blog about it – I can arrange an interview with the author, or even one of the characters.
  6. Download a free copy by clicking here:

Free Review Copy

Read it and give me some feedback or even then review it on your blog.

The book is a fantasy novella set in alternative Dark Age where boys train as warriors and the world of the spirit is never far away. As the first in the series it introduces Luan, the hero who is taking his first steps on The Path Of The Sword.

It is a readable fantasy adventure with a hint of the celtic about it and people who have read it so far thought it was great. It’s also not very long so won’t take too long to read!

(That sounds like a great advertising slogan doesn’t it: Get my book, it’s short!)

 

Anything you can do is much appreciated.

Thanks

Martin

(PS. Yes I have changed the cover again. Just can’t stop tweaking.)

Review Wars!

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This post isn’t so much a review of these books, although I have read both recently, it is more a look at Amazon reviews and what they actually mean.

I chose these novels because they are similar in genre, and they are both Kindle First books. In case you don’t know, Kindle First is an offer from Amazon where they offer you a choice of 1 of 4 to 6 books before they are released for 99p each or free if you’re an Amazon Prime member. I am, so I got both of these books free. As far as I can see all the books are published by Amazon’s own publishing imprints and it’s a way of getting lots of reviews before the books are released to help sales.

Here are the reviews for The Short Drop:

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The first thing to notice here is that Amazon categorise 5 and 4 star reviews as ‘positive’, and 3, 2 and 1 star as critical. This book has got way more positive reviews than critical at a ratio of about 17 to 1. However there are also reviews such as this:

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Personally I thought it was good, although I felt the main character to be a bit of a cliche and some of the plot a little far fetched. But as a kind of mystery/action thriller it was a good read. I pretty much agree with the the 3 star review above. In contrast here are the reviews for Everything Burns:

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Here the ratio is much lower, only about 8:7 positive to critical. I actually quite enjoyed it. The start was a bit slow, and the writing slightly flawed but it really picked up and got better with some good twists. Although the ending was slightly disappointing. I liked the fact that the main character was very flawed. I would probably give it 3 stars, but my review is a lot better than this 3 star review:

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This illustrates the problem. As a statistician I would say that the system lacks reliability because the data is flawed, the value of any particular rating doesn’t necessarily place that review in the correct place. In other words one person’s 3 could be another persons 2 or 4. It is  very subjective.

What we don’t know is how many books have sold. We could estimate based on the number of reviews, The Short Drop has 372 compared with 151 for Everything Burns, but again that’s making assumptions.

So what conclusion can we draw from this ?

It’s difficult to say. As Kindle First promotes only books that come from Amazon publishing imprints, and they only take books via an agent, then we can at least say that both and agent and a publisher thought they were good enough to make money and therefore print. The Short Drop in particular benefitted from Kindel First, it was number one in the Amazon lists before it was actually released which is some accomplishment.

Are the books any good?

As my Grandma used to say, “you pays your money and you makes your choice”. It depends what you like and what you feel like reading at the time. I think we sometimes make too big a deal about ‘quality’, as if every book has to be a masterpiece. It can’t be. A book serves a purpose, which is to be read. Sometimes we want to read something amazing, at other times we just want something light to help pass the time. We shouldn’t get too snobby about it.

On the same page I saw this which had an excellent rating and far more reviews than either. So I guess that makes Pampers nappies better than both books!

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V is for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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Another post and another map!

I always think of this as the third book in the Narnia series after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian, even though there are others that may be set earlier in the timeline. It was always my favourite and I think there are three reasons for this.

Firstly, if you’ll forgive me stating the obvious, it’s a voyage, and I’ve said before how much I like a book with a journey. The Dawn Treader is Caspian’s ship in which he set sail to find the seven lost lords of Narnia who were banished by Caspian’s evil uncle Miraz. It’s actually a rattling good adventure with all kinds of excitements along the way, from sorcerers to dragons to giant sea serpents.

Secondly it’s much less dark than the previous two books, possibly because there is no main evil character.  When I think back and try to recapture the impressions of the book, its all sunlight on water, breeze singing in the rigging and waves under the bow.

Thirdly, there is Eustace, who arrives in Narnia as a spoiled brat and leaves having achieved a measure of nobility. For me the book will always be the story of his redemption, how a cowardly, bullying boy who sees the worst in everyone and everything can change for the better. It’s a nice message and one that was important to me when I was a young lad.

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P is for The Power That Preserves

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The Power That Preserves is the third book in the first trilogy of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson. It is a high fantasy series which has some parallels with Lord of the Rings. For example it has a single evil entity, Lord Foul, who desires to enslave the whole world as well as a ring as a weapon of powerful magic. This is probably because both authors drew from the same rich Germanic legends. However there some noticable differences, in particular the ‘hero’, Thomas Covenant, is not from the fantasy Land. He is from modern day America, transported to the Land by magic. I put ‘hero’ because he is anything but that. He is actually a bitter and cynical man who refuses to believe that the Land he has been summoned to actually exists

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I really like these books. They are extremely inventive and the storytelling is wonderful but as well as that the underlying psychology of series is fascinating. I read the first two trilogies and I didn’t realise there was a third until I did some research for this post. I’m putting them on my list.

K is for The Knife of Never Letting Go

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Today is actually a guest post by my daughter who wants to tell you about a book she has just read. She has immediately given it to me and insists I read it so I’m guessing it’s pretty good!

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first of the sci-fi trilogy Chaos Walking by author Patrick Ness, brought out in 2008. It tells the story of a boy, Todd Hewitt, who awaits the birthday that will make him a man. His home, Prentisstown, is unlike anything other; there are no women, and everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never ending Noise. But then Todd stumbles across a patch of silence, that will change his whole world.

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The story is packed with action, and mind-blowing twists. The characters are wonderfully realistic and the book equally well written. My favourite of these characters, along with nearly all of them, is Manchee – the adorably stupid sidekick-dog.

So there you. From what I’ve read so far (278 pages since yesterday!) I would certainly recommend it.