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Jim J-R (West Sussex, UK)

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Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike)
Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike)
by Robert Galbraith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.00

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent third adventure, 2 Dec. 2015
The third book in the Cormoran Strike series follows the private investigator and his sidekick Robin as their work is interrupted by the surprise delivery of a severed leg. It's another slightly gruesome tale, as you might guess from that description, but not so much as the second book in the series, The Silkworm.

As with many of the author's works, you fall in love with the characters all over again and feel as if you want to dive into every aspect of their lives. It's a rich world filled with interesting minor characters who feel like as much thought and effort has gone into their creation as the stars. What's nice though, and is different from other stories is that the characters are not open books and there are aspect of them and their histories that are being slowly revealed as the series progresses.

The plot is convoluted and twists around a varied set of suspects as is typical of a novel of this genre, and keeps moving at a good pace. There's also a lot of good background stuff going on in the characters' lives to form a strong secondary plot which makes the whole thing deeper and more interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing how some of the events depicted in this novel have repercussions in its sequels.

An enjoyable part three for Strike and Robin's adventures, though perhaps still not up there with the first for entertainment value.


Rogue Lawyer
Rogue Lawyer
by John Grisham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A great Grisham novel with an interestingly different structure, 2 Dec. 2015
This review is from: Rogue Lawyer (Hardcover)
This year's big Grisham novel is an interesting twist, telling the story of a lawyer who is reviled for taking on the cases of those who juries can't wait to sentence - who have already been tried by the press or the police and where evidence is unlikely to sway anyone. As such the chap lives a difficult life and we get to see various as pieces of it.

Unlike the authors other novels, this one is presented in an episodic fashion, telling a number of stories of different cases with recurring characters, rather than the usual focus on one big story. This is great as it feels like your getting much more from the book.

It's great to see this focus on the character, and it doesn't do anything to diminish the courtroom drama of the piece, instead almost emphasising it as there's so much spread throughout. I also liked the way that Grisham gradually build the plot up from small beginnings, dropping things in which then snowball and build into a great story.

I'm a happy Grisham reader after this year's offering, and look forward to visiting his world again next year.


Shadows of Self: A Mistborn Novel
Shadows of Self: A Mistborn Novel
by Brandon Sanderson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.91

4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting twist to an old favourite, 1 Dec. 2015
The fifth Mistborn novel, and the second in this 'Wild West' era off the world, revisits Wax and Wayne - a pair of amateur lawmen who use their powers to help or hinder the local police force as appropriate. I suspect that the setting is actually later than wild West equivalent, but as a Brit my knowledge of US historical eras is a little limited.

Similarly, my memories of the first Wax book are sketchy, and I had no idea as I read it which mentions of the characters' pasts I was meant to already know and which were new pieces of backstory and exposition that I was being given. That made it a little awkward to follow in places, and I'd recommend that other readers perhaps make sure they revisit the previous book before reading. In fact, I remembered the original trilogy much better and found the many dropped references to it one of the really great things about this book.

The plot this time is well constructed as we follow an investigation, and I thought that the new characters introduced lent the world a new layer of richness and variety. The thing I liked the most though was the way that Sanderson continues to build upon the world he created many books ago to keep it exciting and intriguing - with tons of new material here that really makes the reader think about how this culture has evolved.

Another great from Sanderson then - exactly what I had hoped for and expected. Long may they continue.


The Aeronaut's Windlass: The Cinder Spires, Book One
The Aeronaut's Windlass: The Cinder Spires, Book One
by Jim Butcher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book has cats in, 1 Dec. 2015
This is the first book in a new series by the author of The Dresden Files, set in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has migrated to living in monumental 'spires' above the earth, separated by great distances of mist traversable only by great airship. We meet a group of youngsters preparing to do their bit for their home spire by signing up for the local Guard, as well as a veteran airship captain who spends his life flitting between the spires. And there are cats.

When I picked the book up I was expecting a sort of steampunk vibe, or at least some sort of fantasy, but if anything I'd classify it more as a proper science fiction novel, featuring some technology which to me is indistinguishable from magic. This made it unexpectedly delightful, and a new world which I enjoyed exploring along with the characters.

The variety of characters that Butcher has created are fantastic, creating a range of viewpoints from which to tell his story. There are some hilarious comic moments, some excellent intrigue and interesting revelations into which we barely scratch the surface, and a great plot for this opening story that creates a world that's begging to be explored. I'm really looking forward to continuing to read this series as it progresses.

And did I mention there are cats?


Legion: Skin Deep (Legion 2)
Legion: Skin Deep (Legion 2)
Price: £0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Tough to read, and not too enticing, 5 Oct. 2015
Looking back on my notes from the original Legion novella, I quite enjoyed it and its exploration of Stephen Leeds - a man whose various personality 'aspects' manifesto themselves as imaginary people who travel through life with him. Skin Deep continues the exploration of the character in a little more depth as he faces a new adventure.

I didn't re-read the original story before this one, and was struck by how much goes unexplained here, and wondered if I should have gone back first and read them back-to-back. However I've been told by someone who did this that it didn't help and that there are still references that don't mean anything to the reader.

The plot is an interesting idea, although really plays second fiddle to the situation of the character - often something I would praise in a Sanderson novel, but in this case something that's a little frustrating. I struggled in places to keep a track of which aspect was which and to understand the consistency of what they did in the character's imagination. Generally I didn't find it easy to read.


Sight Unseen (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Sight Unseen (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Slow to start, but awesome later, 5 Oct. 2015
The latest novel in the Titan series follows the crew of the starship and Admiral Riker as he continues to get used to his new role. Dispatched to a new frontier, the crew receives a distress call from a friendly vessel and heads off to help.

The book starts like many Trek novels and also follows the recent convention of telling sequels to episodes of the TV series. The first half moves along at a reasonable pace but feels like it's lacking something and didn't grip me as much as I had hoped. There were moments where I phased out and had to take a step back a page to catch back up with myself.

The second half though was excellent. The pace ups and we get a strong blend of action, intrigue and a range of characters having interesting moments. I really like how Swallow takes some of the newer characters and gross them through the novel to the point where it feels like you've known them forever - a trick that would be beneficial to some of the other recent Trek tie-in novels.

That said, some of the other characters that we've been exposed to for a while seemed to get much less attention and two of the subplots felt shoehorned awkwardly in to reshuffle things in a way that didn't have much bearing on the plot of this book.

Overall though the second half really impressed and entertained me, and it was definitely worth reading the first half to get there. An excellent adventure and well used characters. I hope for many more books by Swallow in the years to come.


Make Me: (Jack Reacher 20)
Make Me: (Jack Reacher 20)
by Lee Child
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting new elements, 28 Sept. 2015
The twentieth novel in the Jack Reacher series sees the title character - a former military police officer - arrive in a small violists with an unusual name, which nobody will explain to him.

As always, it's an interesting plot that keeps getting deeper with every twist. However it's much slower than usual to find out what is going on, and unlike some of the earlier books it feels like some of the motivation is a little forced to keep the story moving rather than being organic.

I'm not sure whether it's just me, but I felt there has been a shift in the narrative, with action scenes seeming to switch into an incredibly detailed slow motion description, rather than being quick and blunt. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that - in places it meant I had to pause and step back to really take something in.

That said, Lee Child introduces some interesting new elements of the plot which may indicate an interesting new direction for the series, and may flow through into subsequent novels, which will certainly be interesting to see.

Another excellent thriller from a real master of the genre. A good balance of character, mystery and action.


The Returned, Part III (Star Trek- New Frontier, The Returned Book 3)
The Returned, Part III (Star Trek- New Frontier, The Returned Book 3)
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent conclusion, 24 Sept. 2015
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The final part of this new New Frontier adventure follows up on everything we've seen in parts one and two. There are several vaguely interconnected threads that tie the characters together and demonstrate that Peter David still has what it takes to produce a solid, funny Trek adventure.

As always, the story is filled with imaginative twists, unexpected events (some very surprising!) and humorous moments that made the early New Frontier stories fantastic.

I'm pleased with how David has closed things in a little, focussing back on the original characters and enabling new readers to be drawn in (and old ones to remember). The trilogy as a whole has really impressed me - I'd been scared that it would be terrible, but actually really enjoyed it and hope that there will be more to come.


The Secret Adversary (Tommy & Tuppence Chronology)
The Secret Adversary (Tommy & Tuppence Chronology)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.55

4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly rough, but still a good adventure, 24 Sept. 2015
I picked up this first novel in Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence series much earlier than I'd planned - partly inspired by the recent TV series (despite not having watched it), but mainly because we agreed for it to be the first book we read in our small new book club.

The story opens with quite formal language, which was a little surprising, as we meet the characters and they dive into some exposition to introduce themselves. Abruptly switching tack, they become the best of friends and set out on an adventure.

The writing style reminded me a lot of Wodehouse, and the narrative is particularly dialogue driven - much of the action being summed up in flashback from one character to another. There are a lot of light-hearted moments, and it was certainly an enjoyable tale.

Of the main characters, Tuppence is well defined from the start, but Tommy seemed quite bland and generic until about halfway through where he is described by another character - and from that moment on he seems to obtain that persona. The other characters are varied, and a few are explored well while others feel like wallpaper.

The adventure itself is as convoluted as one would expect from Christie, and while there is one big give away moment, the reader needs to carefully follow the twisting plot and drip-fed clues to work out what's really going on. All the necessary information is there - but still Christie managed to catch me out.


Trigger Mortis: A James Bond Novel
Trigger Mortis: A James Bond Novel
by Anthony Horowitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flemingesque, 22 Sept. 2015
After writing the Alex Rider series of young adult spy stories, clearly modelled on Bond, Anthony Horowitz has finally graduated to the main programme and been invited to write the novel he's been lining himself up for.

Set shortly after Goldfinger, Bond finds himself caught up in both the repercussions of that mission and a new one where he travels to Germany to thwart a Russian plot. A fair chunk of the early part of the story is based on an outline Ian Fleming produced for a potential Bond TV series, and it's fascinating to see how Horowotz has blended in this original material into his narrative and expanded it into a full and rich story.

While much of the novel is written in passable Fleming style, the separation into two halves - one European and one American - goes against the Fleming tradition of alternating book settings, and there is limited overlap between the two parts which feels a little disconnected. The first half seems far more memorable, but that may be because my copy reinforced that with the Fleming script as an appendix.

Despite Horowitz's excellent writing and a solid and entertaining plot, I don't think that this will be remembered as a classic of the continuation novels (actually I'm not sure there is such a thing). It doesn't take any risks with the material, and as such does nothing to make it stand out.

Still, one of the best of the recent bunch of one-off Bond authors and I would have no objection to Horowitz getting the gig for a few episodes - perhaps with the remaining unpublished Fleming texts as inspiration. His grasp of the originals is strong and he's clearly done his research without becoming an obsessive fanboy.

If you enjoy the originals, this is probably the one to read now.


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