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Reviews Written by
Jim J-R (Hertfordshire, UK)

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Dead Man's Grip (Roy Grace)
Dead Man's Grip (Roy Grace)
by Peter James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Clevel, fast, different, but a tiny bit implausible, 6 Dec. 2015
The seventh book in Peter James' series of Brighton-based crimes investigated by Roy Grace brings us back to the detective shortly after the end of his last adventure, with a lot going on in his personal life. A tragic traffic incident leads to a murder investigation that snowballs beyond what might be expected, leading to a thrilling story.

I absolutely raced through this story, aided by the structure of many short chapters which mean it's easy to keep going right until the train arrives into the station rather than stop at a convenient point in expectation.

The story has an interesting set up and this leads too a fascinating range of characters to deal with and a series of events that I think did become a tad too fantastical. One of the things I liked best about this novel is how James is building up a world and a continuity between his books with multiple threads which you can imagine coming together at some point. He has a great talent for intrigue and dropping little hints that gradually grow as you put two and two together. It's really clever that a story that isn't really a mystery as the reader gets all the points of view can still end up surprising you.

So overall a really great addition to the series that's made me very excited to keep reading in the hope that various things will pay off in the books to come.

Ten-Second Staircase: (Bryant & May Book 4)
Ten-Second Staircase: (Bryant & May Book 4)
by Christopher Fowler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Re-inspired me to read this series, 4 Dec. 2015
I was very tempted to give up on the Bryant and May series after reading book three and finding it dull and hard to follow. It was only because I already had more books in the series already waiting on my shelf that I decided to pick up Ten Second Staircase and give it a go. I'm very glad I did.

Set in the present day, our at least relatively close to it, this fourth book tells of an investigation by the Peculiar Crimes Unit into a mysterious death of a controversial public figure. The plot is much more similar I structure and detail to a typical detective story, and I finally got my head around who all the characters are and how the world fits together.

It's a really good mystery that fits the style of the series without distracting from the story, and serves really well to establish the world that these books are set in. I almost wish that this had been the first book I read as it is much more approachable and really gripped me all the way through and has made me much more excited about continuing reading about these characters.

Strike Zone (Star Trek, the Next Generation, 5)
Strike Zone (Star Trek, the Next Generation, 5)
by Peter David
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, 4 Dec. 2015
Book five of the Next Generation tie-in novels sees us joining the Enterprise D crew early in the second season, dropping references all the way through to some of the new aspects of the show that have been introduced - Riker's beard, Crusher's absence, Pulaski's presence, and the arrival of Guinan and Ten Forward.

It's also the first Star Trek novel by now-veteran author Peter David, one of the most famous authors in all of geek literature, and I'm amazed at how much he was allowed to get away with even back in the eighties. This is probably the most hilarious piece of Trek fiction I've read in all seventeen years I've been reading it. Right from the start David is joking around with the characters, especially Riker, and this makes it into a very entertaining novel that survives the decades between publication and reading extremely well.

What sadly hasn't survived intact is some of the background that David supplies for his characters. There's a lot of backstory and exposition that is later massively contradicted by later episodes (especially relating to the Klingons) or that the TV writers had probably planned but never followed up on (Picard/Pulaski). Despite this being me out of the plot a little, it's good fun and interesting in itself to see what was going through the minds of the writers back this early in the series.

Finally, the plot of this specific novel is also good - both the A and B stories are interesting and serve to explore the world well and bring up a number of points that deserve reflection and thought. I was intrigued to see the introduction of one character from a species over read about before I later Trek books by other authors, and I didn't expect to see inter-novel connections like that from so early on. Bit disappointed though that he's consistently referred to as an elf through the story, as that feels a tad racist.

Overall a really good and enjoyable novel and one I'm glad that my re-read brought to my attention. I'm now looking forward to reading more of David's output as I continue the series.

Midnight Sun (Blood on Snow 2)
Midnight Sun (Blood on Snow 2)
by Jo Nesbo
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interestingly different, 4 Dec. 2015
Midnight Sun is the second book in the loose new series by Jo Nesbo, the Norwegian author of the Harry Hole novels. It shares only a slim connection with its predecessor, Blood on Snow, and isn't really a sequel. The story is set in the seventies at the most northern tip of Norway, where twentieth century civilization has let to reach, and where Ulf is hiding out from folk who are out to get him.

It's an interesting short novel, with a straightforward yet captivating character-driven plot presented in the first person in a combination of recent narration and personal flashback. As we learn more and more about the main character, Nesbo plays with the reader's emotions and you're never quite sure what to think about Ulf and which way things are going to go next.

The characters are rich and varied - a real mix of different types who grow in depth and interest with each detail we learn about them, and Knit in particular I found to be an entertaining addition to the narrative.

Nesbo's style really lends itself well to this shorter format of story - I finished in just three sittings - and despite it not being the direct sequel I had half expected I found it an enjoyable read.

Trapped: The Iron Druid Chronicles
Trapped: The Iron Druid Chronicles
by Kevin Hearne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun but slightly baffling, 2 Dec. 2015
The fifth book in the Iron Druid Chronicles surprised me by being set twelve years after the previous book - a twist that I certainly wasn't expecting and one that left me trying to puzzle out when the stories were actually set, as I'd assumed the earlier stories were contemporary and struggle to believe that Hearne would want to be trying to predict the near future.

However despite the potentially futuristic setting nothing major appears to have changed in the world - at least in the limited time we spend in the company of mortals rather then the many domains of fantastical gods and mythical creatures. I was left a bit disappointed that the stories didn't continue in the same vein, but clearly the author wanted to shift some things up a notch.

There are a few references to an adventure which I have discovered, since finishing the book, was depicted in one of a number of interstitial short stories that I hadn't even realised existed. Again that threw me off slightly and made me wonder whether I'd been reading the series in the wrong order.

Anyway, back to this book specifically, which follows the characters as they are drawn back out of hiding and become involved in a complex set of rivalries which I'm not convinced I could have followed even if I'd been taking notes as I went along. Similarly I have no idea quite why one event led to another, and was slightly baffled by some of the action scenes which I think I was to tired to follow accurately enough to appreciate.

I enjoyed some of the other new detail though - some fascinating world building expansion explaining how Druidism works in this world, and some character development that I was sceptical off at first but later bought into, and of course the returning fantastic humour built around Oberon.

So overall a book I enjoyed despite feeling I didn't take it all in, and one that I'm certainly looking forward to following up with the rest of the series and the shorter adventures which ochre missed so far.

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike)
Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike)
by Robert Galbraith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

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: £16.00

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

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: £18.74

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.

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