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J. R. Johnson-Rollings (West Midlands, UK)
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Fallen Gods (Star Trek: Titan)
Fallen Gods (Star Trek: Titan)
by Michael A. Martin
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mediocre adventure that lets the characters down, 23 Aug 2012
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Nominally the seventh book in the Star Trek: Titan series, this book actually follows on from the 'Typhon Pact'-branded novel Seize the Fire by the same author. It follows the Titan as it investigates an unusual pulsar and deals with some of the repercussions of events in the wider Star Trek novel universe.

The narrative is written in an interesting style, with the narrator seeming to take on the voice of the character it is aligned with despite remaining third person. This is something I haven't noticed from Martin before but in places makes the book hard to read - particularly when he's telling the story from the point of view of the new aliens. I would have liked to have spent more time exploring the character of Pava as well, who seems to be skipped over despite seeming the most interesting character.

The plot is slow to get going - it's a curious mix of two plotlines which seem completely disconnected, which while a little reminiscent of the old A/B-plot episode structure from the TV series feels lacking. It then ends very abruptly, which for one of the stories seems like a chapter of follow-up has fallen out somewhere.

As people have said of Martin's other works, his writing is about telling what happens, but there's little by way of real character development. There are character moments certainly, but they don't change or grow. It's also annoying that despite the big thing about the Titan being its diverse crew, the characters he uses are the same ones and same races we've seen before. The most frustrating thing though was the very obvious elephant-in-the-room that seemed to be built up as some big mystery when it was obvious to the reader exactly what was going on.

However it's not a bad adventure, and once I'd got my head around them the alien species were an interesting, if under-developed concept, and it served to continue the ongoing storyline - so is a must read for anyone following along.


A Clash of Kings (Reissue) (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2)
A Clash of Kings (Reissue) (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2)
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic political fantasy thriller, 22 Aug 2012
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The second book in Martin's epic focusses heavily on the disparate members of the Stark family and their Lannister enemies. It's a very political story which might disappoint those looking for endless battle scenes in their fantasy, though I found this to be a highlight as I love stories with complex plotting.

Martin's characters continue to be the highlight of his writing. Despite their status as enemies, the main characters whose points of view the reader is aligned with are incredibly likeable and I found it made for an excellent reading experience.

The narrative moves forward at a quick enough pace, presented as long chapters, each told from a different point of view to its neighbours. This is a perfect way of presenting such a wide-ranging story without it ever feeling that the reader has left any characters behind. Recapping of what occurred in the first book was covered in a very natural manner and I barely noticed - whether this means a reader who had skipped the first book would follow I cannot say.

I can find nothing bad to say about this book - I was surprised by how disappointed I was when it was over, and am looking forward to picking up book three.


Theodore Boone
Theodore Boone
by John Grisham
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.15

3.0 out of 5 stars A dry book with a too-good-to-be-true main character, 13 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Theodore Boone (Paperback)
John Grisham's first children's book is the story of the thirteen-year-old son of two lawyers, who is desperate to be one himself, and finds himself mixed up in the biggest court case the town has ever seen.

I found the book to be aimed at a younger audience than I had expected - probably about right for an eight-year-old reader - and the narration felt a little patronising in places, particularly near the beginning. There's a lot of exposition and the tale is fairly dry for a children's novel.

The character of Theo is difficult to sympathise with - he's a genius who everyone loves and who seems to help everyone - he's just too good to be true. As such he comes over as a bit of an annoying swot in places and I'm not sure he's a character many children would identify with.

The story picks up a bit towards the end but ultimately I found it quite weak and think there's a lot better entertainment for young readers to be had elsewhere. I'm intrigued to find out if Grisham's writing is refined in the sequel, but having read many of his adult novels I don't hold out a lot of hope.


Affair of the Mutilated Mink, The (Burford Family Mysteries 2)
Affair of the Mutilated Mink, The (Burford Family Mysteries 2)
by James Anderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars A light and entertaining mystery, 13 Aug 2012
The second of the Burford Family mysteries sees a visit by the film industry to the Earl's home, scouting for a possible movie, but as before someone isn't going to survive.

As with the first book it's a classic whodunnit reminiscent of agatha Christie but with a more modern style. The setting remains the same but the majority of the character are new and make for an incredibly dubious collection of suspects. There's a mixture of light moments and serious investigation and more red herrings than you could shake a stick at.

It's a light and entertaining mystery that will have your brain spinning as you try to work it out. I really enjoyed it and am disappointed that there's only one more entry in the series for me to look forward to.


The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat (The Mysteries Series)
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat (The Mysteries Series)
by Enid Blyton
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Probably one of the weaker of the series, 11 Aug 2012
The Five Find-Outers and Dog return for a second mystery when a new neighbour's pedigree cat is stolen. It's still early days for the group and I found the mystery to be lacking in some of the usual Blyton hallmarks.

The setting feels much more tame than the first book and the detection is a lot more about brainwork than investigation, which means it's not a particularly action-packed story. The clues are surprisingly subtle and if I hadn't read the book before then I'd be surprised if I had noticed some of them, though there are some very good red herrings.

The language and setting make the book feel quite dated now, and some of the writing actually feels like it is patronising the reader - I would feel awkward reading some passages aloud to a child because of how old-fashioned they are. The main characters are surprisingly middle-class, and while this is poked fun at a little with their relationships with working-class characters, it's possible modern children will find it hard to relate.

Probably one of the weakest of the series, and I'm looking forward to moving on to the later books where Fatty becomes master of disguise and escapology.


CHERUB: Class A
CHERUB: Class A
by Robert Muchamore
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.24

5.0 out of 5 stars A realistic story which deals with real issues really well, 11 Aug 2012
This review is from: CHERUB: Class A (Paperback)
The second book in Robert Muchamore's Cherub series continues the adventures of 12-year-old secret agent James Adams, who takes on a mission to infiltrate a gang of drug dealers.

It's an improvement on the first book, in which the plot was slightly disjointed, and continues the author's surprising grip on realism in depicting teenage life. Unlike characters in other 'young adult' novels, these people seem like they could be real - using the right sort of language and having the right reference points to appeal to an age-group that is under-served by literature.

The plot features drugs, relationships, burglary and vandalism, and some parents may consider that this makes it unsuitable for younger readers - I'd recommend if they have doubts they should read it first. However the repercussions of taking drugs, having relationships and committing crimes are duly shown (fitted naturally into the plot) and my opinion is that it's a very good way of exploring these issues without it seeming like a lecture.

It's a great book for the teenage market and I wish I'd had something like this to read when I was that age.


The Small Bachelor
The Small Bachelor
by P.G. Wodehouse
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A really enjoyable light read, 11 Aug 2012
This review is from: The Small Bachelor (Paperback)
Another delightful tale from PG Wodehouse in which people fall in love and in doing so get terribly confused. To me this is where Wodehouse is at his best - similar to Piccadilly Jim in theme and entertaining throughout.

The characters are the usual mix of loveable rogue, stern matronly woman, pining middle-aged gentleman, disapproving butler etc. in a combination so twisted it's hard to understand how the author makes everything flow so seamlessly together and allow the reader to follow what's going on despite the characters' confusion.

I can't find anything to criticise about this book - I really enjoyed reading it after being rather bogged down by the last novel I read. Wodehouse's writing continues to be a relaxing entertainment in today's world.


The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children)
The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children)
by Jean M. Auel
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.27

3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched with good characters, but dragged out, 8 Aug 2012
The Clan of the Cave Bear is an epic tale of Ayla, an orphaned 'Cro-Magnon' girl living 30,000 years ago and brought up by a Neanderthal clan. The level of historical detail is impressive and it's clear the author has done a lot of research into her era, however I found the story to be overly long and had to take a break halfway through to read something else.

The characters are good - the clan is made up of a rounded bunch of individuals who are all compelling and interesting to spend time with. The narrative though flits randomly between alignment with Ayla and other clan members, sometimes within the same paragraph, which makes it difficult to keep track.

There are also plenty of moments where the narration becomes anachronistic and uses metaphors that wouldn't make sense in the setting, and demonstrate amazing foresight, which really jars with the historical setting. Similarly there is a lack of subtlety in the foreshadowing throughout, which left me in no doubt about what was going to happen and willing the plot to move on - for chapter after chapter.

The other big problem I had with the story was the introduction of fantasy elements that seemed unnecessary to the plot, which I felt could have worked without them. This came after quite a good chuck of historical realism so seemed quite out of place.

Overall, I have to give credit to the idea and the characters, but the text itself was overly repetitive and could have been half as long. I was glad to find that the last fifty pages of my copy were actually a preview of the sequel and I could stop reading earlier than expected.


Licence Renewed (James Bond 1)
Licence Renewed (James Bond 1)
by John Gardner
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars More similar to the films than the original Fleming novels, 6 Aug 2012
Licence Renewed is the first James Bond novel by John Gardner after he took over as continuation writer for the series in the early 1980s. It's very different from the works of Ian Fleming and previous continuation writer Kingsley Amis who did a passable attempt at replicating Fleming's style.

Gardner begins with an attempt to bring Bond and his world up to date (to the eighties) involving the introduction of new characters, vehicles and explicitly changing some of Bond's characteristics. Then Bond heads to Scotland to investigate a nuclear physicist's suspicious dealings with a known terrorist.

Considering this as part of the wider series, it seems that Gardner has made a conscious decision not to base his writing on Fleming's. There's much less of the character of Bond - one of the highlights of the original novels - and more made of the action and gadgetry, much like the movie version of James Bond. A few aspects are nodded to gently, but they feel out of place. It's not a Bond novel that fits with what's gone before, and could easily have been about a new character rather than continuing the brand.

That aside, the book is a reasonable adventure in its own right. The action is fast paced (once the opening exposition is dealt with) and the plot is well thought through and executed. There are a few too many of the typical James Bond clichés - generally it seems closer to a movie plot.

Overall though Gardner's writing is better than I remembered from reading some of his later Bond novels as a teenager. I'll definitely be including the rest in my re-read of the series.


The Secret of Terror Castle
The Secret of Terror Castle
by Robert Arthur
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to the series, 29 July 2012
The first adventure of the Three Investigators introduces a number of long-running features of the series and sees the three boys, Jupiter, Pete and Bob, on their first investigation - to find a haunted house for Alfred Hitchcock to use in his next film.

It's been a long time since I first read these books as a child, and I didn't remember how clearly distinct the characters were - Jupiter in particular comes across as something of a pompous know-it-all which in places early on seems a little irritating, though the character mellows throughout the story.

Although it was written in the 1960s there's very little to significantly date the book and it would be easily readable for a young audience today, with a good amount of tension to keep the reader entertained. The mystery is fairly basic and reading as an adult some of the twists seemed obvious (but I have read it before and was surprised by some), but it serves to introduce the characters and set up the series.

All round a nice trip down memory lane with a book that I think is still perfectly good for a youngster interested in mystery stories. I'm looking forward to re-reading the rest of the series, including those I missed out on as a child.


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