Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Phoenix Conspiracy - Richard Sanders

Another free book download for you - The Phoenix Conspiracy is an excellent space based SF novel available from ibooks and Amazon Kindle.  It's the first in the series and the second and third, which are available now, will cost you a few pounds on Kindle - but is almost certainly worth it.
The story follows the captain of a stealthed intelligence ship who is ordered to track down a rogue military Captain and his ship.  Obsessed with understanding why the Captain went rogue, things soon develop into an intriguing story of conflict, conspiracy and personal struggle.
The pace of the story is excellent.  Sanders gives you all the information you need to understand the society, the scenery and the characters but without overloading the action.  For a 'free book' it is exceptionally well written - almost certainly it has benefited from the kind of professional editing which so many of these books lack.  Certainly entertaining and occasionally thought-provoking, although it does seem to be missing the level of military strategy and dynamism you'd get from an author like Elizabeth Moon.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Invasion by DC Alden (Abridged or not Abridged!)

This is a difficult book to review, as the recent revised edition published in 2011 is massively abridged compared to the original published in 2006 - a difference of about 300 pages.  Simply put, the plot explores a violent take over of Europe by Islamic powers and the rebellion against that rule.  In the newer version many of the explanatory side stories have been removed leaving the novel lacking dimension, although the story itself is still excellent.
A military thriller, it's not a story for the faint-hearted or overly paranoid.  The politics are very current, and considering the original was written in 2006 it is surprisingly predictive of events of the last few years - albeit projecting them further into the future.
All in all, if you intend to give the book a try, we'd advise you to track down one of the original versions (about 660 pages long).  You will be missing out on a great book if you only read the new edition.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Last Praetorian by Mike Smith

If you want something to read for free, this is an excellent novel that can be downloaded free from ibooks.  Epic SF with a socio-polictical system loosely based on the Roman Empire.  For a self-published novel it is comparitively well written, if clumsy in places and definitely worth a try if you enjoy SF.
Full of heroic adventure, betrayals and general space-born conflict, along with political intrigue.  If you like the kind of extensive activity descriptions you often get in this genre you'll find it a definite page-turner, with many quirky scenes that add a touch of fun to the story and are revealing of the main characters.  There are lots of interesting twists and turns to the story and this is just book one of the Redemption Triology.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Sanditon by Jane Austen & Another Lady

I love the generosity of the writer of the continuation of Sanditon (Jane Austen's last unfinished novel) in keeping a low profile so that the story remains attributed to the original author.  Unfortunately this book isn't widely available any longer, but is definitely worth taking the effort to track down if you enjoy Jane Austen's work.  In my opinion the continuation is almost seamless, and both style of language and plot are faithful to the original.
There is a stronger humour element here than in Jane Austen's major works - more in line with Northanger Abbey's gentle mockery of the Gothic style than Pride and Prejudice's social and relational irony.  The continuation perhaps takes the humour a little further than Jane Austen would have - I almost laughed aloud towards the end of the story as the varying threads are woven together, something I have never done in a normal Austen novel.
The story follows the experiences of Charlotte, who is visiting the seaside town of Sanditon, and her encounters with the various personalities who live there or visit for the 'season'.  At first sight not the most inspiring of storylines, but the relationships between the characters is what makes this - as with most other Austen novels.
My only major criticism of the continuation is that there are several times when the writer makes use of phrases from other Austen novels - although not as often as some 'sequels' I've read.
I've been trying to discover a good continuation of The Watsons - another unfinished novel - does anyone have any suggestions?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams

A bit of a departure from my usual genres takes me into Chick-Lit territory, somewhere I rarely venture but find more and more I enjoy - within certain parametres. Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan is certainly an easy going read, a good strong plot without being overly complicated and characters you want to spend some relaxed time with.  Looking at some of the other titles by Jenny Colgan, I'm not I'd enjoy them as much - but then Blurbs can be highly deceptive.  For style of writing, I would enjoy reading more of her books, but I'm not sure if the setting - a small village community in Derbyshire - is actually the main reason I found the book entertaining.  There is a lightness of touch in the development of the story - and the romance - that is definitely appealing and a deep sympathy with the characters and their situation that made it unputdownable for me.  The weaving together of the two stories of two women in different eras (WW2 and modern) is done very well and enhance each other.
The love scenes are subtle and the swearing of characters feels appropriate although there is a fair amount of strong language to watch out for if you don't like that sort of thing.
If you like sweets - old fashioned or modern - there is plenty in here to make you raid your snack cupboard while reading, and if you're really adventurous there are several recipes included for things like Tablet which you might like to make once you've been able to put the story down.
So, worth a try if you feel like a light romance and life story.  I shall have to try another of Jenny Colgan's books to know if she'll become a favourite author.