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Nicola Taunt (York, North Yorkshire United Kingdom)

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Die Trying: (Jack Reacher 2)
Die Trying: (Jack Reacher 2)
by Lee Child
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Far-fetched but entertaining, 3 Feb 2014
Jack Reacher against 100 militia men in the wilds of Montana? It's no contest. They don't stand a chance.

Reacher finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and is kidnapped alongside an injured FBI agent. As they rattle across America in the back of a truck, neither Reacher nor Agent Holly Johnson know why they've been taken or where they're going. And neither does the FBI as Holly's colleagues struggle to locate and track them.

But Reacher is a machine, a highly trained, intelligent, logical, rational, and resourceful machine. He's used to relying on himself and it's a good job. In the end, that's all he needs.

This is the third Reacher book I've read and I enjoyed it. It's far-fetched, but I don't read Reacher for a slice of reality. Reacher is pure escapism. And Lee Child is brilliant at escapism. This is another good tale, well told.

The Book Thief
The Book Thief
Price: 2.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Death tells the tale of a young girl in Nazi Germany, 28 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Book Thief (Kindle Edition)
Overall, I liked this book, but I can see how it would divide opinion. The author writes with a lyrical, poetic style that didn't always work for me. He appears to be a very visual writer, with a tendency to describe people and objects being a strange colour. He's also fond of anthropomorphism, giving feelings to random things.

I liked Liesel's relationships with the other characters, particularly her father, Rudy and Max. However, Liesel herself it's a strong character despite the fact that the author keeps positioning her as the lynch pin of the whole thing. It's interesting to get a glimpse of an ordinary street in Germany during one of the most turbulent times in its history, but not a whole lot happens.

I'm not really sure about the conceit of Death narrating the story. It makes little sense to me other than a way to talk about other aspects of the war that Liesel doesn't experience. It's also more than a little irritating to have definitions of everyday words shoved into the middle of the story. Sometimes the inserts work, other times they don't.

This book isn't an easy read because of the style of writing, but it is worth a read. Just don't expect to rattle through it or be untouched by it.

The Resistance: The French Fight Against the Nazis
The Resistance: The French Fight Against the Nazis
Price: 4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Stodgy political history of the French Resistance, 16 Jan 2014
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This was too stolid a retelling for my tastes. It focused more on the political situation surrounding the French Resistance than the acts of resistance. That might float someone else's boat, but it left me a bit cold. Even when Mr Cobb described the action, it was dull and lacked any tension.

This would be a better book if it was written less as a lecture and more as a series of stories. I realised it's a factual book, but that doesn't mean it has to be dull. Simple things like shorter sentences and using active instead of passive voice would make a huge difference.

I also bumped up against a couple of inaccuracies that jarred for me. Basic things like the author stating the Battle of Britain had not yet begun by 31 July 1940 and wrongly referring to D-Day as Operation Overload instead of Overlord, not once but twice. It made me wonder what else was incorrect. Mr Cobb's habit of repeatedly calling the German army "Nazi soldiers" at the same time as explicitly stating that the rank and file were generally not Nazis, just soldiers following orders also bothered me.

It's not a bad book, but it's not as interesting as a book about this fascinating slice of history should be.

As an aside, I read the Kindle edition and the book itself finishes at 58%. The rest of the space is taken up with the glossary, bibliography, further reading, notes and a list of people and what happened to them. It made the book seem very slow going.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 18, 2014 6:28 PM GMT

Price: 1.79

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Romance lifted by the puzzle of parallel lives, 9 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Fractured (Kindle Edition)
This was a nice, easy read, if a little over-written at times.

Rachel is 23 years old and when she was 18, her life was changed by a catastrophic accident. Or was it? At the start of the book, Rachel is a sad, lonely girl, scarred and ill following five years on from the accident. Then she collapses and wakes up to a different life, one where she's a successful journalist engaged to her high school boyfriend. And best of all, the friend killed in the accident five years ago is miraculously alive and her dad is no longer dying of cancer.

Despite finding herself with an immeasurably better life, Rachel is desperate to get back to her old life. That seems a little odd to me. I understand her being flummoxed by the situation, but why so desperate to prove her old life is real when it was such an unhappy one?

Most of the characters are cardboard cut-outs: the gorgeous, shallow fiancé; the brittle bombshell with her eye on Rachel's man; the perfect best friend and potential love interest, Jimmy. Rachel herself is a bit of a cliché: pretty, bit of a martyr, oblivious to the fact that her best friend is in love with her when everyone else knows.

The confusion over Rachel's lives is the only thing that lifts this book from your standard chick-lit fare. The plot line owes a lot to Life On Mars, but it trots along well enough. And the explanation does sort of explain some of the things that jarred with me, like why all the characters are so intent on marrying and how Jimmy reached the rank of inspector all by the tender age of 23.

This could have done with better editing and less flowery prose in places, but it's a quick, untaxing read.

Days of Blood and Starlight: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy: Book Two
Days of Blood and Starlight: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy: Book Two
Price: 3.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Second instalment in a vividly drawn tale of angels and beasts, 3 Jan 2014
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This is a beautifully written sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It follows Karou and Akiva, now on separate paths with their own kind.

Akiva is back with his angel brethren, but is increasingly unhappy and disillusioned with what the angels are doing. Karou is with the remnants of the chimaera army. ***SPOILER*** She has taken up Brimstone's mantle as the resurrectionist for the chimaera, making stronger, faster and tougher warrior bodies to take on the angels. ***SPOILER***

This second book in the series takes us into darker territory as both angels and chimaera seem intent on slaughtering each other despite the end of the war. Akiva and Karou's dream of harmony between their people seems further away than ever. Add in secrets, betrayal and twists and turns galore and you have an enthralling book that sets up the next novel perfectly. Bring on Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy 3).

Black Roses
Black Roses
Price: 4.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Delivers on period detail, but falls down on drama, 30 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Black Roses (Kindle Edition)
I was disappointed with this book. The majority of this novel is taken up with scene-setting, which Ms Thynne does well, but I like a bit of story with my atmosphere.

The blurb talks about Magda Goebbels imparting a deep secret to our heroine, Clara, but she doesn't dish the dirt until around 75% into the book. Even then, although it's a surprising secret, it doesn't really create drama.

Clara herself is hard to relate to. There's no depth to her character, she's just a mirror, reflecting whatever characteristics she wants to take on. She's from a privileged Anglo-German background, but flees to Germany to be an actress after almost being unwittingly lassooed into marriage by an ambitious but boring suitor. Once there she falls quickly and improbably into the social circle of the highest ranking Nazi WAGs. A chance encounter with a British diplomat leads her into the dangerous and shady world of espionage, with Clara reporting back on her meetings with the Nazi women.

Things become complicated when the beautiful Clara attracts the unwanted attentions of a Nazi officer working for Goebbels. At the same time, she falls in love with her spymaster and also has to come to terms with the violent death of a woman she calls her friend, but doesn't actually seem to like.

I wanted more from this book. The author obviously knows Berlin and the time period well, but the drama never really takes off. Just as it begins to take tentative flight, the book ends fairly abruptly with us and Clara finding out second-hand about the result of her spying adventure. From a story-telling point of view, I found it very unsatisfying, but the author's attention to detail is very good.

Take A Look At Me Now
Take A Look At Me Now
Price: 1.99

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Twee chicklit tale about perfect, beautiful people, 18 Nov 2013
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This is an entirely predictable chicklit tale. Everyone's beautiful, everything's amazing and perfect. There are many descriptions of food and parts of San Francisco.

The heroine, Nell, is the kind of woman who everyone loves instantly and takes to their hearts. Nell loves everyone back, especially if they're handsome. Nell has no self-confidence, but is uber-talented and has to be told as much by everyone she meets, the poor thing. But Nell also has an annoying tendency to jump to conclusions, decide that's the only explanation without asking any questions and never giving anyone a chance to tell her differently.

I didn't particularly enjoy this, but I didn't absolutely hate it. It just irritated me a fair bit. It's too saccharine, twee and predictable for me, but if that's your bag, you'll love it

Cop Hater (87th Precinct)
Cop Hater (87th Precinct)
Price: 3.49

3.0 out of 5 stars First of the 87th Precinct novels, 4 Oct 2013
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I liked the style of writing, but the story was too quickly wrapped up with very little detective work. Very quick read.

Harry's Game (Ultimate Collection)
Harry's Game (Ultimate Collection)
Price: 5.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A two-sided tale of a manhunt during the Troubles, 1 Oct 2013
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This novel, first published in 1975, tells a two-sided tale of terrorism and counter-terrorism on the desperate and brutal streets of Belfast.

In London, a British cabinet minister is shot dead in front of his wife and children by an IRA assassin. The gunman escapes, returning to obscurity in Belfast, but the British security services can't afford to let the IRA thumb their noses at them like that. The Prime Minister steps in, ordering a new face, a man unknown in Belfast, to go undercover and find the assassin. Enter Harry Brown, a captain in the British Army with previous experience of infiltrating hostile territory.

Seymour weaves the story between the two men. We follow IRA man, Billy Downs, through the assassination and subsequent flight from the British mainland, and back in Belfast as he tries to resume his life. Then we meet Harry as he's plucked from duty in Germany for intensive preparation for an undercover mission sanctioned from the very top, but known about by very few.

Seymour is very good at setting the scene. He makes you feel the tension, the fear and the danger rife in Belfast during the Troubles. He shows both sides of the story, but never comes down on any one side. Throughout the book, Seymour shows how the smallest slip-ups lead to secrets on both sides coming out and the tragic consequences of that happening.

The story is tautly written and that helps carry the momentum through to the final confrontation. I didn't think the book needed some of the clean up at the end, where Seymour ties up loose ends for some of the minor characters, but on the whole he didn't waste time with unnecessary detail. This is well worth a read.

The Sunne in Splendour
The Sunne in Splendour
Price: 4.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The redemption of Richard III, 5 Sep 2013
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This is a beautifully written novel that transports you deep into the 15th century and one of the most turbulent periods of English history. It follows the life of England's most controversial king, Richard III.

When we first meet Richard, he's a little boy just shy of his seventh birthday and already deeply hero-worships his eldest brother, Edward. The year is 1459 and Richard's world is about to change dramatically as the Wars of the Roses flare up with tragic consequences for his family, the House of York.

At around 950 pages long, this book doesn't skip over many time periods, but the 25 years it covers are packed with battles, treachery and intrigue. Richard may be the central character, but the novel also focuses on the charismatic Edward IV and his selfish, manipulative queen, Elizabeth Woodville; the traitorous George, Duke of Clarence, brother of both Richard and Edward; Richard's loyal wife, Anne Neville; Anne's ambitious father, Warwick the Kingmaker; Marguerite d'Anjou, the embittered queen of Henry VI; and a real tapestry of other characters.

Sharon Penman brings them all to vivid, glorious life, fleshing them out to become real people, not just caricatures from history. Richard is Dickon to those he loves, Edward is Ned, and Ms Penman shows that these royal brothers were real, flesh-and-blood people with their own strengths and frailties, passions and problems.

Richard himself is a compelling figure in the hands of this author. He emerges as steadfastly loyal to his sovereign brother, loving and supportive of his young wife, a caring father and uncle, and staunch friend. He inspires utter devotion in those who love him and bitter hatred in those who oppose him. He's a man with strong morality, who finds himself in terrible situations, often having to make hard decisions.

Wherever possible, Sharon Penman rooted her story in real events, using contemporary sources. She admits in the notes at the end that she had to fill in some blanks simply because records don't exist for everything. The actual fate of the Princes in the Tower is still a mystery, but her interpretation of what happened to Edward IV's boys is more than plausible.

This book was meticulously researched and is the richer for it. The depiction of medieval life is outstanding, the attention to detail phenomenal. Particularly fascinating for me were the scenes in York because I know the city so well and could picture the setting.

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the complex politics of the Wars of the Roses, anyone who loves tales of battles and kings and queens, anyone who likes a bit of historical fiction. In fact, I'd recommend this to anyone who likes a good, satisfying story. I couldn't forget that this was firmly based on real events, but that just made the story, especially the ending, even more bittersweet.

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