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Firefight

Firefight

11th January 2015

Book two (if you ignore a novella set in between) of Brandon Sanderson's Reckoners series continues the adventures of David Charleston in his fight against the Epics - humans who have gained superpowers which turn them evil. David and his friends head for New York this time, to confront a gathering team of Epics who threaten to wipe out the city.

Sanderson has managed to amaze me yet again. Despite finding the start a bit slow, by the time I was about a third of the way through I was absolutely hooked and raced through the back half. The way the author manages to take what could have been a self-contained story and expand the world in a completely natural way to a wider view is fantastic. There's so much here to learn about the characters and the magic systems in play and the main character's enthusiasm for learning about it is really contagious.

Although this is being marketed in some places as a young adult series, there's nothing here that wouldn't appeal to any reader. The tone is slightly humorous, particularly with one of the quirks of David making for a frequent recurring gag, but this doesn't distract from what is actually quite a serious story. I really love all the plot twists and everything that's revealed in this volume - there's so much to take in that I think a re-read might be in order before the third (and possibly final) book comes along in fourteen months time.

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

11th January 2015

I suspect this was around my eighth reading of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I began re-reading the series again as J K Rowling began to release additional content on the Pottermore website - however this time I've been quite late getting there for the content for this book.

While I, of course, enjoyed revisiting Harry's world again and spending time in the company of him and his friends at Hogwarts, this is, I feel, still one of the weaker half of the series. Personally I think it picks up a lot from book five, though many seem to disagree. This book does feel overly long, and there is a lot to happen before anything really meaty comes along.

That said, I also noticed this time around that there's a lot of foreshadowing going on that I've not spotted before. Partiularly in the early chapters, Rowling gives a lot of hints of things to come, and even at the end there are little hints that I've not spotted before, such as references to characters we don't really know about until the next book. This sort of thing is one of the reasons I find the Harry Potter series so magical and enjoy returning again and again.

A vital turning point for the series, and one that I have enjoyed, particularly the second half. If anyone hasn't yet read Harry Potter then I certainly recommend it.

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The Hanging Garden

The Hanging Garden

11th January 2015

Ian Rankin's series about Inspector Rebus continues to grow better and better. In this, the ninth book, things become personal (again) for the detective as his daughter becomes part of a case (again) and he becomes embroiled in a gang war (again?).

It's been eight months since I read the previous book, which may have been a little long as I felt a little trepidations going in to this one. Although I remembered really loving Black and Blue, the first few chapters of this book didn't suck me in, and in fact confused me quite a lot that I then had to go back and re-read some of them a little later to try to work out what had happened - even after that, I was halfway through before the narrative finally started to make sense. Once I was back to my normal commute after the Christmas break through I found I got really into this book and once again found it absolutely fantastic.

I think what I love the most about the world that Rankin creates is the detail of the texture. It's not just about a policeman investigating a case - so much of what's happened before is still hanging over the character and influencing things. There are recurring characters that don't exist just to set the scene but novel after novel continue to have real effect on character and events. I look forward to this continuing and being built upon further in later novels.

The one thing that I did find niggled is Rankin's tendency to have a gimmick in his stories. This time, Rebus has developed a fixation on song titles, and keeps likening events and things people say to them. To me (and perhaps because I'm the wrong generation to know the music) this felt awkward and weird and distracted from the story rather than enhance it.

Overall though another great book in the series, and one I would definitely recommend. Having said that though I suspect it wouldn't have been so great if I hadn't read the previous books and already grown to enjoy and know the character.

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Mad Dogs

Mad Dogs

31st December 2014

The eighth book in the Cherub series hows some old character development as each of the main characters grow older and more or less wise. The setting of a gang war introduces the reader to a wider range of agents than in some of the earlier books, and gives more chance for the author's style of realistic, almost too authentic, portrayals of teenagers.

This book, along with the rest of the series, very clearly states on the cover that it's aimed at an older young audience, and this one in particular features a number of more adult themes, both romantic and violent, than earlier ones and so some parents may decide they want to vet this before giving it to their children.

One of the things that stood out here is the borders between black and white, and how easy it is to fall in between. Several characters have difficult choices to make and that's really interesting in a young adult book that it really engages the reader in a way that a lot of books don't.

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Rivers of London

Rivers of London

31st December 2014

The first book of a new series and new author for me, following a young police constable, fresh out of training and on the beat as part of the Metropolitan Police where he is rapidly seconded into an unusual unit that deals with investigating the odd. It didn't strike me as a particularly new idea - the urban fantasy setting is similar to several series that I've read before, and even tying that to the idea of an investigator is familiar (e.g.Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, Christopher Fowler's Bryant & May).

That said, this book did immediately capture my attention with its humour and character. Peter Grant, the main character and narrator, is an engaging chap and is believable as a character to align the audience with as he is introduced to the magical world - in a way very much like Harry Potter, where the reader learns with the character. Similarly, there's clearly a lot going on that we're not, as readers, let in on at this stage in the narrative and I'm looking forward to following the story on in the sequels.

The plot itself is interesting, although there were perhaps a few too many strands of narrative to pull together. There are some nice twists and turns and reveals along the way that really do well to keep the reader interested. That said, there are elements that I thought were obvious surprisingly early on but the characters didn't pick up on until later.

Genuinely one of the best comedic urban fantasies that I've read and one that's high up on my favourite books read in 2014.

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An Officer and a Spy

An Officer and a Spy

29th December 2014

I think I'm becoming more comfortable with not finishing a book. I read 150 pages of this novel before giving up - it's not that it did anything to put me off, more that it didn't do anything to keep me reading. The plot felt like it had barely moved, and yet time seemed t be whizzing past.

The characters did nothing to endear them to me at all - it was almost as if their historical nature meant that they had to be quite boring. Perhaps instead it was an artefact of the first-person presentation, as if the book were being written as a letter rather than a diary, by someone with all sense of imagination drummed out of them.

I admit, I probably could have persevered with this book, and perhaps if it hadn't been the Christmas holidays I may have ploughed on through my commutes over a week or so and got to the end, but there are so many more books to read and when I'm off work I'd rather be reading something riveting (like the next book I read, which had me hooked straight away).

So not a disappointment, just not something that captured my attention. It was worth a go though.

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Three to Get Deadly

Three to Get Deadly

21st December 2014

Book three - my favourite of the first three in the series - sees Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter, on the trail of much-loved local personality 'Uncle Mo', who has skipped bail on a minor charge. Typically she ends up mixed up in something slightly bigger and amusingly complex.

The structure of the story is strong, both from the perspective of the 'main' plot and the B story 'soap' plot that Plum and her co-cast of characters follow. I really enjoy the recurring gags and find the light-hearted approach to a crime story very compelling.

One disappointment of this particular novel was the blurb - one of the plot points mentioned didn't come to pass until relatively late and even then didn't turn out as momentous as the back cover had implied. If it hadn't been called out, I wouldn't have been watching for it all the time and distracted from what was actually happening.

I'm glad this was better than book two as I've got a shelf (well, technically a box at the moment) full of later books in this series and now can look forward eagerly to picking them up for a light escape every now and then.

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The Mystery of the Vanished Prince

Reading soon

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  4. The Desert Spear
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  11. James Bond: The Authorised Biography
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  13. The Gunslinger
  14. Dèjá Dead
  15. The Name of the Wind
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  17. Dissolution
  18. Postmortem
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