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Jim J-R (West Sussex, UK)

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Firefight: A Reckoners Novel (Reckoners 2)
Firefight: A Reckoners Novel (Reckoners 2)
by Brandon Sanderson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Sanderson has managed to amaze me yet again, 11 Jan. 2015
Book two (if you ignore a novella set in between) of Brandon Sanderson's Reckoners series continues the adventures of David Charleston in his fight against the Epics - humans who have gained superpowers which turn them evil. David and his friends head for New York this time, to confront a gathering team of Epics who threaten to wipe out the city.

Sanderson has managed to amaze me yet again. Despite finding the start a bit slow, by the time I was about a third of the way through I was absolutely hooked and raced through the back half. The way the author manages to take what could have been a self-contained story and expand the world in a completely natural way to a wider view is fantastic. There's so much here to learn about the characters and the magic systems in play and the main character's enthusiasm for learning about it is really contagious.

Although this is being marketed in some places as a young adult series, there's nothing here that wouldn't appeal to any reader. The tone is slightly humorous, particularly with one of the quirks of David making for a frequent recurring gag, but this doesn't distract from what is actually quite a serious story. I really love all the plot twists and everything that's revealed in this volume - there's so much to take in that I think a re-read might be in order before the third (and possibly final) book comes along in fourteen months time.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: 4/7 (Harry Potter 4)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: 4/7 (Harry Potter 4)
by J.K. Rowling
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great visit to Harry's world, 11 Jan. 2015
I suspect this was around my eighth reading of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I began re-reading the series again as J K Rowling began to release additional content on the Pottermore website - however this time I've been quite late getting there for the content for this book.

While I, of course, enjoyed revisiting Harry's world again and spending time in the company of him and his friends at Hogwarts, this is, I feel, still one of the weaker half of the series. Personally I think it picks up a lot from book five, though many seem to disagree. This book does feel overly long, and there is a lot to happen before anything really meaty comes along.

That said, I also noticed this time around that there's a lot of foreshadowing going on that I've not spotted before. Partiularly in the early chapters, Rowling gives a lot of hints of things to come, and even at the end there are little hints that I've not spotted before, such as references to characters we don't really know about until the next book. This sort of thing is one of the reasons I find the Harry Potter series so magical and enjoy returning again and again.

A vital turning point for the series, and one that I have enjoyed, particularly the second half. If anyone hasn't yet read Harry Potter then I certainly recommend it.


The Hanging Garden
The Hanging Garden
by Ian Rankin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Rebus series grows better and better, 11 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Hanging Garden (Paperback)
Ian Rankin's series about Inspector Rebus continues to grow better and better. In this, the ninth book, things become personal (again) for the detective as his daughter becomes part of a case (again) and he becomes embroiled in a gang war (again?).

It's been eight months since I read the previous book, which may have been a little long as I felt a little trepidations going in to this one. Although I remembered really loving Black and Blue, the first few chapters of this book didn't suck me in, and in fact confused me quite a lot that I then had to go back and re-read some of them a little later to try to work out what had happened - even after that, I was halfway through before the narrative finally started to make sense. Once I was back to my normal commute after the Christmas break through I found I got really into this book and once again found it absolutely fantastic.

I think what I love the most about the world that Rankin creates is the detail of the texture. It's not just about a policeman investigating a case - so much of what's happened before is still hanging over the character and influencing things. There are recurring characters that don't exist just to set the scene but novel after novel continue to have real effect on character and events. I look forward to this continuing and being built upon further in later novels.

The one thing that I did find niggled is Rankin's tendency to have a gimmick in his stories. This time, Rebus has developed a fixation on song titles, and keeps likening events and things people say to them. To me (and perhaps because I'm the wrong generation to know the music) this felt awkward and weird and distracted from the story rather than enhance it.

Overall though another great book in the series, and one I would definitely recommend. Having said that though I suspect it wouldn't have been so great if I hadn't read the previous books and already grown to enjoy and know the character.


CHERUB: Mad Dogs
CHERUB: Mad Dogs
by Robert Muchamore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Authentic portrayal of teenagers - excellent, 11 Jan. 2015
This review is from: CHERUB: Mad Dogs (Paperback)
The eighth book in the Cherub series hows some old character development as each of the main characters grow older and more or less wise. The setting of a gang war introduces the reader to a wider range of agents than in some of the earlier books, and gives more chance for the author's style of realistic, almost too authentic, portrayals of teenagers.

This book, along with the rest of the series, very clearly states on the cover that it's aimed at an older young audience, and this one in particular features a number of more adult themes, both romantic and violent, than earlier ones and so some parents may decide they want to vet this before giving it to their children.

One of the things that stood out here is the borders between black and white, and how easy it is to fall in between. Several characters have difficult choices to make and that's really interesting in a young adult book that it really engages the reader in a way that a lot of books don't.


Rivers of London: 1
Rivers of London: 1
by Ben Aaronovitch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best comedic urban fantasies that I've read, 11 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Rivers of London: 1 (Paperback)
The first book of a new series and new author for me, following a young police constable, fresh out of training and on the beat as part of the Metropolitan Police where he is rapidly seconded into an unusual unit that deals with investigating the odd. It didn't strike me as a particularly new idea - the urban fantasy setting is similar to several series that I've read before, and even tying that to the idea of an investigator is familiar (e.g.Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, Christopher Fowler's Bryant & May).

That said, this book did immediately capture my attention with its humour and character. Peter Grant, the main character and narrator, is an engaging chap and is believable as a character to align the audience with as he is introduced to the magical world - in a way very much like Harry Potter, where the reader learns with the character. Similarly, there's clearly a lot going on that we're not, as readers, let in on at this stage in the narrative and I'm looking forward to following the story on in the sequels.

The plot itself is interesting, although there were perhaps a few too many strands of narrative to pull together. There are some nice twists and turns and reveals along the way that really do well to keep the reader interested. That said, there are elements that I thought were obvious surprisingly early on but the characters didn't pick up on until later.

Genuinely one of the best comedic urban fantasies that I've read and one that's high up on my favourite books read in 2014.


Three to Get Deadly (Stephanie Plum 03)
Three to Get Deadly (Stephanie Plum 03)
by Janet Evanovich
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Light, fun, interesting, 22 Dec. 2014
Book three - my favourite of the first three in the series - sees Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter, on the trail of much-loved local personality 'Uncle Mo', who has skipped bail on a minor charge. Typically she ends up mixed up in something slightly bigger and amusingly complex.

The structure of the story is strong, both from the perspective of the 'main' plot and the B story 'soap' plot that Plum and her co-cast of characters follow. I really enjoy the recurring gags and find the light-hearted approach to a crime story very compelling.

One disappointment of this particular novel was the blurb - one of the plot points mentioned didn't come to pass until relatively late and even then didn't turn out as momentous as the back cover had implied. If it hadn't been called out, I wouldn't have been watching for it all the time and distracted from what was actually happening.

I'm glad this was better than book two as I've got a shelf (well, technically a box at the moment) full of later books in this series and now can look forward eagerly to picking them up for a light escape every now and then.


Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations - The Collectors
Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations - The Collectors
Price: £3.72

4.0 out of 5 stars Humorous and clever, 22 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Christopher L Bennett's third story about the Department of Temporal Investigations sees investigators Dulmer and Lucsley returning with an anachronistic artefact to the DTI's base on Eris, followed by a slight accident that reunites them with an old friend.

The novella format seems to have freed the author from some of the gravity of a traditional Trek novel and he takes the opportunity to add a very welcome pile of humour that makes the whole reading experience greatly entertaining. While I often don't get on well with the Star Trek stories that focus on non-TV character, this one was a delight to read.

Bennett's vision of the future is one of fantastic detail, and his writing style allows the reader to pick up on things slightly ahead of the characters, one of my favourite traits in fiction. Overall a really good quick (but actually I didn't think too quick) read that adds to the DTI's story and makes me hope that he's able to return to this series again in the future.


Footprints Under the Window (Hardy Boys Mystery Stories)
Footprints Under the Window (Hardy Boys Mystery Stories)
by Franklin W. Dixon
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A little dated, but not bad, 22 Dec. 2014
Hardy Boys book twelve, as updated in 1965, sees the sibling detective teenagers rescue a man who has fallen overboard, and who gives them a cryptic warning about footprints before disappearing. It's a good adventure story that includes some international travel.

Parts of the story feel dated, and to an adult reader a little bit odd - as in one of the earlier stories, references to unfriendly countries are vague and don't feel a natural part of the narrative. On the other hand, they added a little grandeur to the story that some of the earlier books were lacking with an over reliance on a particular type of criminal.


A Dance With Dragons: Part 2 After the Feast (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)
A Dance With Dragons: Part 2 After the Feast (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing (but getting a little formulaic?), 22 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The second half of the fifth book of A Song of Ice and Fire really does work as it's own book. Each chapter of the whole series really comes across as its own episode and they could easily be strung together in one long story or split between almost any one. Martin splits his novels at particularly shocking places though, and this follows that trend.

A reminder - this is the increasingly diverse story of a group of factions each trying to invade or defend a land mass from invasion, insurrection or supernatural attack. The characters who have survived this far are almost all ones that I enjoy spending time with, although because of the structure of the narrative at this point, there are some who go completely without mention.

One thing I did find with this volume though is that the chapters have become somewhat formulaic - or it's just that I've read enough now to recognise the formula. The chapter begins by updating us on a character's situation since the last 'episode' in which we saw them, then they make a plan for what to do next, attempt to execute it, and something goes horribly wrong. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with this structure, but the repetition meant that I started to expect it and try to predict the ending rather than just enjoy the ride.

Still a fantastic series though and I'm now desperately waiting for the next instalment - the first that I'll be able to read in hardback as soon as it's out, regardless of how long it is.


While the Clock Ticked (Hardy Boys Mysteries)
While the Clock Ticked (Hardy Boys Mysteries)
by Franklin W. Dixon
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A good adventure, 10 Dec. 2014
Hardy Boys original number eleven (as revised in 1962) sees the teen detectives take on a new investigation when their father is unavailable. A range of coincidences come together as usual to tie several different mysteries together into a closed room mystery that the boys struggle to solve, including some of their biggest peril so far in the series.

While some elements of the series seem to be becoming quite repetitive - the number of criminal gangs in the same line of business in one little town is quite surprising - this is a good example of the Hardy Boys, and belies the claim the first ten books were the best, as this is certainly better than some of them.


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