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D. W. T. Taylor "book addict" (London)
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Another Episode S / 0
Another Episode S / 0
by Yukito Ayatsuji
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.58

4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile twofer for Another fans, 11 Jun. 2016
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This review is from: Another Episode S / 0 (Hardcover)
Although the book description doesn't make this entirely clear, this hardback contains both Yukito Ayatsuji's novel Another Episode S and Hiro Kiyohara's manga Another Episode 0. The novel reads in the conventional western style from the beginning of the book, while the manga is in the Japanese style reading backwards from the end.

You really shouldn't embark on Episode S unless you have already ready Another. Although, chronologically speaking, it's a side story to the original novel – it relates what happens to Mei Misaki when she takes a brief holiday just before the climactic events of the class trip – it is thematically more of a sequel in that it expands on the themes of Another. Mei isn't even really the main character, since most of the story is narrated by the ghost of one of her grown-up friends, Teruya Sakaki, a lucky survivor of the curse of Class 3 eleven years previously, who cannot clearly remember the events leading up to his recent death or what happened to his corpse. When Mei comes looking for him at his former home, she helps him in his quest to establish how and why he died. Koichi Sakakibara plays even less of a role than Mei, appearing only fleetingly in the bookends of the story. Although Episode S is satisfying as a short, self-contained mystery with some clever plot twists along the way, it also introduces elements in its bittersweet climax that resonate with the events of Another.

Episode 0 is a little more ephemeral, being a sort-of prologue to the main Another manga and telling the story of Koichi's aunt, Reiko, at the time of his birth and then jumping forward to his arrival as a teenager at her home in Yomiyama. It's nicely drawn and an interesting addendum to the saga, but it doesn't really work as a standalone story and is basically only relating events that were already explained in flashback in the original novel. As such, it is really only recommended to Another completists.


The Crow Girl
The Crow Girl
by Erik Axl Sund
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Believe the hype, 17 May 2016
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This review is from: The Crow Girl (Hardcover)
There comes a time, when you've read enough detective fiction, that you begin to recognise the literary sleight of hand that writers use to mask the identity of killers from their readers and you can begin to predict the path that the plot will take. About 150 pages into this intricate Swedish police procedural I was rather smugly congratulating myself on having already figured out what was undoubtedly going to be one of the book's major upcoming plot twists when the authors abruptly pulled the rug out from under my feet by not just showing their hand, but then going far, far beyond anything I could have predicted. Duly chastened, I settled in for the long run.

And a long run is certainly what you get, with more than 750 pages of densely plotted story and complex psychological investigation. The length is justified in not only unravelling a labyrinthine conspiracy that stretches back for decades but also getting you under the skin of some extremely disturbed and damaged individuals. The narrative takes you into some very dark places – there is almost no sexual and moral depravity that it doesn't touch upon, from paedophilia and incest to bestiality and cannibalism – but it never feels gratuitous and the authors don't gloat over the scenes of brutality and degradation.

At a time when too many lacklustre crime thrillers are over-praised by the critics it's nice to find one that lives up to the hype.


Boy Who Drew Monsters, The
Boy Who Drew Monsters, The
by Keith Donohue
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.70

3.0 out of 5 stars Very sketchy, 11 Jan. 2016
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Having read and enjoyed a number of Keith Donohue's books in the past – particularly Angels of Destruction – I was looking forward to this immensely. Sadly it failed to live up to its hype, clever premise and a corker of a plot twist.

While the title of the book constitutes a major spoiler, it isn't really a problem. More of an issue is the characterisation of the protagonists, which is sketchier than one of the young lad's monster drawings. It's hard to really get involved in the predicament facing such two-dimensional figures, nor to really care what happens to them in the end. Much of the plot is similarly ill-defined, meandering back and forth from location to location and back and forth in time, with characters deliberating over plot revelations along the way but not really getting any the wiser. It really does feel like a short story that has been spun out to novel length. Sadly, the cracking plot twist at the end just seems to highlight how lacklustre everything has been up until then.

Donohue is a good writer, so I hope this is just a slight misstep in his career.


Slade House
Slade House
by David Mitchell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Happy Halloween, 1 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Slade House (Hardcover)
When I noticed that David Mitchell was slipping out a new book so quickly after his epic The Bone Clocks, I assumed it would be a Christmas novella. However, the arrival of this atmospheric tale of a creepy house that seemingly exists outside of conventional space and time is perfectly timed for Halloween – although given Mitchell's residency in Ireland, perhaps that should be Samhain.

To give away too much of the plot would be to spoil the fun, but I would add one word of caution: read The Bone Clocks first. While one has come to expect a certain amount of crossover with Mitchell's novels – characters, events and themes often overlap in unexpected ways in different books – this is one occasion when you really need to understand the world of the Horologists to get the most from Slade House.

Enjoy your visit.


Tracer (Outer Earth)
Tracer (Outer Earth)
by Rob Boffard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bodies moving in a vacuum, 26 Oct. 2015
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This review is from: Tracer (Outer Earth) (Paperback)
Whatever one might say about Tracer, the one thing it has in spades is a relentless forward momentum. Set aboard a ramshackle space station containing the sad remains of the human race that is just hours away from destruction, it presents an unlikely saviour in the form of Riley Hale, a punky courier who specialises in speed, parkour and a cynical line of banter. Hale has to battle her way through the 18-mile circumference of the space station with just about every other occupant out to stop her before she can reach the control room and halt the countdown to armageddon. It's a bit like Die Hard meets District 13 meets The Warriors.

Which is the whole problem with Tracer in a nutshell: it feels less like a novel than a pitch for a movie – a sketchy outline lacking any real depth or gravity (no pun intended). With the exception of Hale, who is fleshed out as a scrappy and appealing hero, everyone else along for the ride is strictly one-dimensional. Unfortunately this includes Oren Darnell, the snarling villain of the piece, who is never given much in the way of compelling motivation for wanting to render the human race extinct beyond the fact that he's utterly bonkers. Credibility is further strained when various other characters are revealed to be secretly in cahoots with Darnell in sequences that have all the dramatic weight of a villain being unmasked in a Scooby Doo cartoon. Dang, we would have got away with it if it hadn't been for that meddling Riley Hale!

Make no mistake, Tracer is fast-paced and action-packed. Unfortunately, it's also completely disposable and eminently forgettable.


The Girl in the Spider's Web  (Millennium Series)
The Girl in the Spider's Web (Millennium Series)
by David Lagercrantz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Stieg of the dump, 13 Sept. 2015
When it became apparent that the late Stieg Larsson had not left behind enough material on which to base a fourth volume in the Millennium series it was probably inevitable that another writer would be hired to step into his shoes and produce more bestsellers. Unfortunately decisions based on money are never likely to be good ones.

It seems to me that the biggest mistake David Lagercrantz makes is to not realise that what made the first three books so memorable wasn't their plots, but rather the uneasy relationship between its protagonists, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist. Yet he gives us only fleeting glimpses of Salander for the first half of the book and her interplay with Blomqvist for much of the rest of the book is limited to a few terse text messages; the title of the book may be hers, but she feels like a supporting player. The rest of the plot revolves around cyber theft, industrial espionage and moles at the National Security Agency in America – the last of which feels like a token addition to entice some Hollywood studio into buying the film rights since there will be a handful of roles for American actors. And speaking of movies, the addition of an autistic child whose closed mind holds some dangerous secrets and who becomes the targets of assassins seems to have been borrowed wholesale from the 1998 movie Mercury Rising.

The bottom line is that if you changed the names of the characters and excised the rather clumsy chunks of exposition referring back to events in the first three books, all you'd be left with is an efficient if somewhat routine Eurothriller. Larsson's memory deserves better.


Panasonic DVD-S500 Multiregion DVD Player with Scart Cable
Panasonic DVD-S500 Multiregion DVD Player with Scart Cable
Offered by Executivez
Price: £45.80

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Versatile player at an amazing price, 24 May 2015
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I bought this as a supplementary player to my blu-ray and HD TV set-up because my blu-ray player could be a little temperamental when playing DVDs, so I didn't want to spend a fortune. I have to say that, given its price, this is a fantastic little player. I can confirm that it's happy to play Region 0, 1, 2 (and Region 2 NTSC), 3, 4 and 5 (the only reason I don't mention 6 is that I have no discs from that region, but I'm sure it would play those too!). I also tried out several DVD-Rs and it played those perfectly as well. No special set-up is required for regional playback – it worked straight out the box. Physically, it's a tiny unit – probably only two-thirds the size of a regular DVD/blu-ray player – but packs in everything you would want. Such versatility at this price is incredible!


The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies
The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies
by Martin Millar
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fragrant fantasy from the incomparable Martin Millar, 16 May 2015
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If there was any justice in the universe, Martin Millar's novels would sell in the same quantities as Terry Pratchett and Nick Hornby. He shares with them a very British strain of understated comedy, but what sets him apart is a finely honed sense of absurdist whimsy whether he is dealing with glum werewolves in the Kalix books, slovenly private eyes in the Thraxas novels (written under the name Martin Scott) or peevish Greek gods as in this delightful fantasy set in Athens in 421BC, where the latest comedy by the playwright Aristophanes might just be able to halt the long-running war between Greece and Sparta if he can only over come the various human and supernatural characters attempting to sabotage the production. As always, Millar aligns himself with life's eccentrics, misfits and innocents in the struggle against politicians, military leaders, financiers and other idiots.

The Goddess of Buttercup and Daisies is a notional companion piece to Millar's 1988 novel Lux the Poet, a similarly farcical fantasy set against the backdrop of the Brixton riots, but you don't need to have read the earlier novel to enjoy it. Mind you, he's one of those writers where you read one book and then immediately want to go out and read all the others.


Thraxas and the Oracle: Thraxas Book Ten
Thraxas and the Oracle: Thraxas Book Ten
Price: £2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp as an elf's ear, 22 Mar. 2015
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If you're a fan of this witty comic fantasy series then you won't need me to recommend this 10th adventure for the overweight private investigator and his mismatched cohorts. This time round, the Turaians are setting out to retake their city from the invading Orcs, but their trek into battle gets waylaid by a dangerous detour to get advice from the local oracle and the presence of an unseen enemy spy in their ranks. As always, the plot is almost secondary to the ongoing sniping between the various characters and Thraxas's almost unlimited capacity for getting distracted by flagons of ale. Pure fun.


Broken Monsters
Broken Monsters
by Lauren Beukes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Urban decay, 15 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Broken Monsters (Hardcover)
The notion of great art being born from adversity was perhaps best summed up by Harry Lime in The Third Man: "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." Lauren Beukes takes this idea and gives it a vicious spin in her follow-up to her breakthrough bestseller The Shining Girls. Broken Monsters plays out amidst the derelict neighbourhoods and deserted factories of Detroit, a city blighted by bankruptcy and the collapse of the American motor industry, but which has become a magnet for self-absorbed artists who want to be inspired by – and to exploit – its decaying infrastructure. Unfortunately one of those artists is a serial killer who has a very idiosyncratic vision that he wants to share with the world.

Whereas The Shining Girls was a very taut and focused novel, Broken Monsters is much more sprawling and open-ended. There are a lot of disparate characters to keep track of and there's much more going on beneath the surface of the book – note the recurring human/animal motifs not only in the killer's modus operandi of creating ghastly hybrids out of body parts, but also the two characters who plot their own 'performance piece' disguised in cat masks and another whose bird tattoos take on a surreal life of their own. And even having finished the book, I'm unsure whether I'd classify it as a thriller or a horror novel – Beukes cleverly and very deliberately maintains an ambiguity as to whether events have a rational or supernatural explanation. Whatever the case, it's certainly creepy, compelling and leaves a lingering shadow in its wake.


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