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Blood Memory
Blood Memory
by Greg Iles
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars INTENSE, ATYPICAL, REAL-TIME THRILLER, 1 Dec 2008
This review is from: Blood Memory (Paperback)
"Blood Memory" is unusual. The action takes place in the deepest south continuously over a period of several days as severely-damaged heroine "Cat" Ferry's investigation of a series of murders leads her to re-examine the story of her own life and family, in turn resolving the murders. It's intense stuff, revolving around child abuse, and the plotting is idiosyncratic - lots of improbable developments, chases and coincidences, numerous deaths, and a host of characters emerging throughout the narrative - my favourite is Big Leon on p.492 - to fulfil a niche role. There are few "aha" moments, and many of the characters are stereotypical. Despite all this, the plot moves forward at a good rate, and the rich mix of mysteries, and Cat's own struggle to overcome her well-drawn demons, are enough to maintain the tension and keep us reading.

Pro: unusual narrative style, readable. Con: daft in places.


The Poet : Every Rhyme Means Death
The Poet : Every Rhyme Means Death
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars EARLY CONNELLY UNUSUAL BUT EXCELLENT, 28 Nov 2008
Michael Connelly is that rare thing: a consistently excellent thriller writer (see my review of "A Darkness More than Night"). "The Poet" is one of his earlier novels and doesn't feature rogue private eye Hieronymous ("Harry") Bosch. Instead, the hero is sensitive journalist Jack McEvoy, the apparent suicide of whose detective twin brother at the opening of the book sets the stage for a series of complex, intriguing and unpredictable events. There's an excellent cast of major and minor characters, drawn as always with Connelly's excellent deft strokes, and a series of useful twists. All this adds up to an excellent, highly commended read - a clear 5*.

There are two added features here. First, I've read nearly all Connelly's thrillers (see reviews) and this feels like the most personal. The first person narrative, the fact McEvoy is a crime reporter (as Connelly was) who wants to be a writer, the frequent references to his state of mind, feel almost intimate. Second, "The Poet" feels like a labour of love. The complexity and cunning of the plot, in particular, is redolent of a writer giving his all. I'm not knocking his later works - great, also - but here, Connelly has gone the extra mile. This has some downsides - the story does feel a little long in parts, and might be better trimmed by 50 pages. But it's still terrific stuff.

Pros - excellent, involving thriller. Cons - hardly any, but perhaps a mite long.


America Unchained: A Freewheeling Roadtrip In Search of Non-Corporate USA
America Unchained: A Freewheeling Roadtrip In Search of Non-Corporate USA
by Dave Gorman
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Been there, done that?, 8 Nov 2008
Dave Gorman writes an entertaining, intriguing travelogue about his trip from "sea to shining sea". Although some of it does have a familiar feel, the quirky observations and careful construction (with a good deal of jumping back and forth between key moments) help maintain the narrative. He's impressively non-judgemental and doesn't hammer his central (and, arguably, somewhat shaky) concept of avoiding chain motels and gas stations too hard. And for anyone who says "I could have written that" - hey, go and try doing the trip, and writing about it. It's harder than you'd think.

Pro: enjoyable, non-taxing read. Con: few revelations.


The Black Ice
The Black Ice
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars EARLY CONNELLY A SOLID, COMPLEX READ, 2 Nov 2008
This review is from: The Black Ice (Paperback)
Michael Connelly's loner detective Harry (Hieronymous) Bosch is a splendid, dark creation. "Black Ice" is one of his earliest appearances, and will appeal to Bosch fans as a chance to find out a little more about how Harry came to be such a tortured soul. The plot is complex and intriguing, and moves briskly through a number of twists, making this an enjoyable read. The information about Harry's father and mother is revelatory. Compared with some later Connelly books, however, parts of "Black Ice" do not always feel completely convincing. This may owe something to the setting: Bosch, and Connelly, are always most at home dealing with LA crime. When they venture too far away (as here, to Mexico, or dealing with Homeland Security in "Lost Light") the narrative is less assured.

For: fine thriller. Against: not as good as some other Connelly.


A Darkness More Than Night
A Darkness More Than Night
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars EXQUISITE, POWERFUL THRILLER, 2 Nov 2008
Michael Connelly's thrillers are consistently good. Whereas other successful commercial authors often seem to deteriorate over the years, "A Darkness More Than Night" is as good as any of Connelly's earlier works. The plot, revolving around two separate murder enquiries, contains several satisfying twists, as well as linking two excellently drawn detectives in Harry (Hieronymous) Bosch and Terry McCaleb. But the quality of the writing is even better, with a host of subtle details creating the "noir" atmosphere which the title suggests, as well as painting minor characters with the deftest of brush strokes. This would be a masterclass in thriller-writing from any author; but coming from someone who has already published many books, it's awe-inspiring. Keep it up, Michael C!

Pros: superb, quality thriller. Cons: none, except that it makes you despair for certain other thriller writers who have gone off the boil.


Total Control
Total Control
by David Baldacci
Edition: Paperback

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars NOT THE BEST BALDACCI, 13 Sep 2008
This review is from: Total Control (Paperback)
David Baldacci has written several fine thrillers including "Last Man Standing" and "Absolute Power". "Total Control" has several of the same features, notably a complex plot whose contours only become clear as the reader moves further into the book. Unfortunately, the writing just isn't as sharp as in Baldacci's better works. In particular, the characters are less well drawn and behave in irritatingly improbable ways. This makes it hard to care about them, or how the conundrums set up by the author are resolved. Unlike his earlier works, I found it a real challenge to finish.

For: complex, puzzling plot. Against: not gripping enough.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 29, 2013 9:45 AM BST


Bose Sounddock Digital Music System - Black
Bose Sounddock Digital Music System - Black

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GOOD QUALITY AT A PRICE... BUT NOT QUITE AWESOME, 1 Aug 2008
I bought a Sounddock having listened to a range of competing systems at a duty free shop. It's a solid piece of kit, and the sound quality is substantially better than most cheaper systems - indeed, there's a bit of a "wow" factor. In a small or medium-sized room, it's easily loud enough, although it's doesn't have the volume eg to power a dancing party of more than a few people. The controls are admirably simple, the remote control unit works fine (although you can't use it eg to move between playlists), and the Sounddock looks good. It's also extremely compact for the volume and quality of the sound.

Two quibbles. First, the Sounddock is expensive. I bought mine substantially discounted, which helped it to seem reasonable value. Second, mine emits a barely-perceptible (to my ears) high-pitch whine when it reaches the end of a play-list. This stops if you remove the iPod or turn the unit off.

For: compact, good sound quality, looks great. Against: expensive, some doubts about build quality.


Case-Mate IPC120GB-PB Leather Case for iPod Classic - Black
Case-Mate IPC120GB-PB Leather Case for iPod Classic - Black

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GOOD-LOOKING, CLASSY CASE FOR IPOD CLASSIC, 1 Aug 2008
First, if you don't have a protective case for your iPod Classic, get one. Drop any iPod without a case onto a hard surface and it's gone. I've seen it happen, twice. Trouble is, there are countless designs of case, ranging from cool stick-on jobs (offering little protection) through silicone sleeves (reasonable protection) to substantial leather or leather-type hard cases (excellent protection). I browsed endlessly before settling on the Case-Mate and have been delighted. It's rigid, feels sensuous and leathery, looks cool, and is lined with a smooth red material to make it possible to slide your precious iPod in and out (the fit is quite tight). There's a hole at the bottom for your charger; the top is exposed for your headphone jack; and it comes with a leaf of plastic to stick over your iPod's window. After six months of heavy use, mine still looks like new.

Downsides: with the case, your iPod won't fit into a cradle or sound dock. This leads to an existential moment: when you take the iPod out of its Case-Mate, where it's been for a week or two, to put it into eg a Bose sound-dock, the iPod seems impossibly vulnerable and frail. It's almost a relief to put it back in the case later.

KEY POINT: the Case-Mate has different sizes to fit the 80B and 160GB iPod Classics. Make sure you get the right one!

For: solid, classy product to protect your iPod. Against: makes the iPod a bit fiddly to use with products needing a dock. But then so do most protective covers.


Concise Oxford Russian Dictionary
Concise Oxford Russian Dictionary
by Marcus Wheeler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.77

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality, good-value Russian dictionary, 1 Aug 2008
I last bought a Concise Oxford Russian dictionary in 1991 in two volumes - Russian-English and English-Russian. 17 years later it was falling apart from over-use, and was missing key modern words like "bio-diversity", "global warming" and "on-line". So I was delighted to find the revised version in a single volume, printed on good-quality paper and properly bound in a hard-cover edition. Printed on 1007 pages, it has an excellent ratio of "range of vocabulary" to "weight and size", and includes all the above words. It's not a dictionary for specialist or technical translators, but is fine for eg "A" level or IB students, or for most people studying modern, rather than literary, Russian eg to take up a job in the former Soviet Union. The only down-side is that althought the dictionary has been reprinted several times, it doesn't seem to have been revised since 1998. So it's light on a few words of the last decade, eg it does not contain "blog" or "podcast".

For: good-value, compact, comprehensive. Against: beginning to need revision.


Kingston Technology 1GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive with Exclusive 6 way jewel case bundle (case holds one of  XD,CF,SD,MMC, Memory stick, or SM)
Kingston Technology 1GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive with Exclusive 6 way jewel case bundle (case holds one of XD,CF,SD,MMC, Memory stick, or SM)

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT MEMORY STICK, 22 July 2008
For some reason I've often had trouble with memory sticks which simply stop working. I've had two Kingston data traveller sticks, one 1GB, one 4GB, and both of them have been utterly reliable. There's a little light to show if it's in use, and the colour coding gives you a clue as to the size of the memory you're dealing with (eg 4GB is purple, 1GB is grey). They're not quite the cheapest memory sticks, but the extra reliability is, in my view, worth paying a little bit extra for. Plus they look as if they were designed by Apple.

For: works every time. Looks good. Against: not as cheap as cheaper memory sticks.


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