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Jim J-R (West Sussex, UK)

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Scorpia (Alex Rider)
Scorpia (Alex Rider)
by Anthony Horowitz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An okay read, but could be more believable, 6 Feb 2013
This review is from: Scorpia (Alex Rider) (Paperback)
While the fifth Alex Rider book contains the usual exciting scenes and vital mission to save the world, it seems quite bitty and lacks the strength of the first two books. Following the revelation at the end of the last book, Alex heads to Italy to attempt to find Scorpia, and learn about his father.

The story is full of peril, action, twists and turns and a group of characters who really could have been plucked from a James Bond story. In fact it's almost too Bond-like, becoming almost a parody.

Alex comes across as rather a weak character, and there's little to make the reader too fond of him. He doesn't seem to act like a real boy a lot of the time, and it feels unbelievable where other authors writing about teenage spies manage to make the events more realistic.

It's not the worst book in the series though and does well to make the plot more relevant to the character and less of a random stand-alone adventure. It will be interesting to see where things progress in the later novels.


Taken At The Flood (Poirot)
Taken At The Flood (Poirot)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong characters, but this leads to a rushed investigation, 5 Feb 2013
An interesting if slightly unfulfilling mystery for Hercule Poirot as he is called on to investigate something different to the usual - this time, he's asked to prove someone is alive. It's a complex plot involving a lot of family relationships and quite a large backstory.

The first half of the book focuses on setting up the mystery - who the characters are and how they have found themselves in their situations. This felt like it dragged a bit and made me wonder quite when Poirot was going to make an appearance. He finally turns up about halfway through and sets about his investigations, which then seem quite rushed and disappointing.

The characters - particularly the female ones - are generally well developed and show strong personalities that are probably the most interesting feature of the story. The plot has sufficient complications to baffle the reader, although I did manage to unpuzzle at least some of the clues.

Overall, a middling novel in the series I think - neither the best or worst of the bunch. It starts well, but the actual meat of the story is in the set-up rather than the remainder.


Coots in the North (Red Fox Older Fiction)
Coots in the North (Red Fox Older Fiction)
by Arthur Ransome
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some good short stories and a fascinating insight, 3 Feb 2013
The beginnings of the thirteenth Swallows and Amazons novel is collected along with a few other short or incomplete works by Arthur Ransome, which makes this much more than just some disconnected scenes from a work in progress.

Coots in the North would have seen the Death & Glories travel from the Norfolk Broads to the Lake District, and the text contains the opening of this story, which though unpolished shows the usual Ransome style and really pulls the reader into the story, which makes it more of a shame that it then stops, with the remaining portions of narrative only adding a few extra scenes. It's an interesting insight into the author's writing process, while also a disappointment that there is no more.

The other stories are equally interesting, though having not read Ransome's work outside his most famous series I may not appreciate all of it fully. The tone is very familiar, and I found the sections that open this collection the most interesting - the opening chapters of a potential book about a fisherman's life, and a later chapter from the same presented in the first person. Both stand alone quite well as short stories, and have encouraged me that now I've finished re-reading the Ransome books I've kept since a child to look out for some of his other stories.

I think I've appreciated this book much more as an adult than I did when I read it as a child, and perhaps the grown reader is the best audience for it. It evokes memories of reading about the lakes as a child, and of wanting to become a writer myself in order to complete the story!


Dragon Haven (The Rain Wild Chronicles, Book 2)
Dragon Haven (The Rain Wild Chronicles, Book 2)
by Robin Hobb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly character development, little action, 3 Feb 2013
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The second book in the Rain Wilds Chronicles is more the second half of the first book than a separate novel. It follows the journey of the dragons, their keepers and the rest of the party as they travel up the Rain Wilds river to find the legendary city of Kelsingra.

It's not really an exciting tale of adventure though, rather more looking at the characters and how they, and the relationships between them, develop over time. As such, while it's interesting to follow their lives, the narrative isn't really gripping and I didn't find I was as hooked as I have been with earlier Robin Hobb novels.

The characters are good, varied, and perhaps deeper than ever before. Really I suppose this is a love story, a little reminiscent of the film Love Actually, as it follows the budding romances between pairs of characters, and the collapse of others. In this, it's really good, and there's one particular relationship that I found fascinating to follow.

It's quite different to the author's usual tales, and I quite liked the variety, but didn't find it as engaging. It's a little slow and is very much the middle and end of the story started in The Dragon Keeper.


Pulling Up Stakes
Pulling Up Stakes
Price: £0.77

4.0 out of 5 stars A great first half of the story, 30 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Pulling Up Stakes (Kindle Edition)
The first half of Peter David's Pulling Up Stakes introduces us to Vince, a vampire hunter with a deadly secret - he is a vampire himself.

David builds a surprisingly rich world in a short space of time, giving his characters round edges and creating a tale that is easily believable. It's an interesting concept to set up what appears to be a straightforward story, but becomes increasingly complicated throughout.

The author's usual sense of humour shines through, filling the first-person narrative with real-world references that amuse at the expense of other popular vampire franchises.

It was great to have something short yet memorable to read through over a weekend and I've already downloaded part two to continue reading when I next have an odd e-book moment.


The Race Of Scorpions (A Lady Serpent Egyptian Murder Story)
The Race Of Scorpions (A Lady Serpent Egyptian Murder Story)
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining mystery novella, 30 Jan 2013
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James Goes crafts an e-novella about a historical assassin, hired by an elderly noble, but who ends up instead serving as detective as her client dies.

I read this in a piecemeal fashion over a period of two months, which means I haven't really absorbed it as well as if I had read it in a quick few sittings, but still I found it entertained me in the few moments I could give it.

The mystery works well, and the range of characters are interesting and could clearly have been taken further. The writing is serious but with a good quantity of humour sprinkled in that makes this a beautiful quick read.


Bad Science
Bad Science
by Ben Goldacre
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good content, but the presentation doesn't endear, 30 Jan 2013
This review is from: Bad Science (Paperback)
Ben Goldacre, a junior doctor, writes about his many criticisms of dodgy science, and particularly the journalists who wrote about it and spread misinformation.

While it's well researched, true, educational and a good presentation of the science and lack of it behind various claims, the aggressive tone grates against the reader and the attempt to make me feel anger just turns into frustration at the book.

Goldacre's writing can Ben come across as egotistic in places, and he certainly doesn't write in a way that's likely to endear him to those who disagree with his views. It seems that he is preaching to the choir. A more relaxed style, even in alternating chapters, might have made the book easier to read, but as it is the continued stress of reading builds up to the point where I just couldn't wait for the final few chapters to finish so I could relax.

I do feel I've learnt a little from this book, particularly from the early sections on clinical trials, but I'm not convinced its the best way to communicate science.


CHERUB 4: The Killing
CHERUB 4: The Killing
by Robert Muchamore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent story, 27 Jan 2013
This review is from: CHERUB 4: The Killing (Paperback)
In the fourth Cherub novel, Robert Muchamore's writing returns to the power of the first two books, as teenage secret agent James Adams is sent in to help find the source of a minor criminal's sudden windfall.

Muchamore's writing is perfect for modern children, focusing on realism and believability, and creating characters that his readers can relate to and sympathise with.

Packed with excitement, every reader will want to be a part of Cherub and live the thrilling lives of James and Lauren Adams.


Where Do Comedians Go When They Die? Journeys of a stand-up
Where Do Comedians Go When They Die? Journeys of a stand-up
by Milton Jones
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An amusing and well-constructed tale, 27 Jan 2013
Comedian Milton Jones is famous for his one-liners on TV programmes such as Mock The Week, but in this novel he presents a good mix or humour and plot as he tells the tale of not-unfamiliar comedian Jerome Stevens through ten years of his life.

I really like the style of the narrative, alternating between the character reflecting on his immediate past during his journeys between and after various gigs and his situation at the end of the ten-year time span. It's an interesting way to tell a story that is essentially the characters inner monologue without it reading like continual exposition.

The humour is perhaps a little lighter than I was expecting, and a lot of it plays in ironically as Stevens considers ideas for his routines, but overall I enjoyed reading it and would probably read more from Jones if he chooses to write a follow-up novel.


Theodore Boone: The Abduction
Theodore Boone: The Abduction
by John Grisham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.15

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Weak, not exciting, and offensive, 18 Jan 2013
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Theodore Boone returns for a second adventure, with all the flaws of the first, plus a weaker plot and far less going on. This time, Theo's friend April had vanished in the middle of the night, and the police are desperate to find her.

The story is quick, dull and devoid of excitement. There's nothing here to interest a young reader. Theo is slightly less perfect than in book one, worried about disobeying his parents in places and attempting to get out of school (weakly), but he still remains a flawless child that any 1950s parent would be content with.

The problem is that it feels like it was written for a child of the past. The language is not modern, the character's activities are not typically relatable, an it's an incredibly classist and sexist book. Theo's family are posh enough to eat at restaurants every day, and the narration constantly berates lower class people and describes areas of the town where more people rent than own as undesirable. This comes across as a disgusting prejudice throughout the book and really turns me off as a reader.

Grisham may sometimes be able to pen gems as a writer of legal thrillers, but he seems to have no understanding of children, and really should stay away from this market.


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