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The Scandal

The Scandal

26th May 2016

The sixth Theodore Boone novel from John Grisham sees his middle school hero taking standardized tests that will affect his further education, and needless to say things descend into the courtroom.

There are many good things about this book - the characterisation is much improved over the earlier stories, with the main character being much more realistic and three dimensional. The plot as well is completely believable and moves at a good pace.

However, the story suffers on a number of angles. One of the most notable things when I started reading was the presence of outdated attitudes in the narrative, for example that the Boone family trend to eat out because Theodore's mother is not good at cooking, with no reference to the other characters' culinary abilities. Similarly there are elements of classism, with the narrator looking down on families who live in rented accommodation, and I'd imagine alienating half his target audience. Later on though the story takes a drastically socialist turn leaving ma unsure what message I'm meant to be taking away.

Finally, for a book about morality and doing the right thing, it seemed particularly lenient in wrongdoers. Perhaps it's because I don't have an understanding of how things work in fictional America, but I'm fairly sure similar events in the UK would have been considered far more seriously.

So. Slightly entertaining, but also aggravating. I don't think I can recommend it.

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Taken

Taken

26th May 2016

I was surprised when I finally purchased this entry in the Alex Verus series to discover that it's only the third book, thinking that I had read more than just the two novels before it.

It feels a more mature story, with the characters seeming more comfortable in themselves and the narrative, presented in first person, flows more naturally. There are some nice new additions to the cast list, as well as deeper exploration of the world and its magic systems that strengthens and builds the existing ones.

The plot is a well structured thriller mystery, where nobody's intentions are clear and there are plenty of turning to explore. I did feel that the length of time I left between novels was probably a little too long, as some of the minor characters had declined to stick in my memory and I didn't feel that this novel did enough to roundly reintroduce them to me.

One place I did think this story disappointed was in not using the protagonist's own magical skills in a way integral to the plot. One of my favourite aspects of earlier stories was how it was used as a fundamental to hang everything else off, and this time it just felt like a tool used to solve a problem.

Overall, good, but not great. Enough to keep me reading though.

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The Secret Warning

The Secret Warning

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26th May 2016

The seventeenth book in the original Hardy Boys series, in its revised form, tells the tale of the brothers on the trail of an island inhabiting ghost, and a golden relic of ancient Egypt being imported too the United States for some sort of illegal sale (probably).

It feels like a bit of a mishmash of different plots, with many different mysteries tied together in a convoluted and unlikely web of intrigue. I'll admit to having taken a break from the story halfway (not through any specific fault of the book), but I didn't think this structure made it easy to keep up with everything that was going on.

Overall, fairly typical entry in the series. Didn't do anything special or notable and would probably have better served as a single sitting read.

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Hot Six

Hot Six

26th May 2016

Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter, sees her sixth adventure in the ongoing soap opera of her life with only the slightest twist in the formula. This time her friend Ranger is her target as he's vanished following a mysterious death.

I can't entirely render remember why I started reading these novels - probably one was really cheap in a library sale - but I quite enjoyed the first few, with the idea of a woman attempting to make it in an unusual profession. Now however the premier seems a bit stale, and it feels a little like the author has run out if be ideas for plot and has fallen back on romance to take over as the primary story.

The lustfulness of the characters was there from the start, but now it seems to dominate over the story. Additionally, the series has started to develop cliches - grandma's trips to the funeral parlour and the destruction of cars in particular, which now detract from the enjoyment of reading.

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Buy book: UK
The Falls

The Falls

26th May 2016

Book twelve, and somehow Rankin manages to keep Tennis feeling fresh, moving on his personal storyline while providing new and intriguing mysteries that keep getting better and better.

This is the tale of a missing student whose parents have sufficient status too call in the full weight of the Lothian and Borders Police in to hunt her down. As usual, Tennis takes the investigation in his own direction and finds much deeper and more disquieting things to look into.

I think my favourite thing about these books is the way that they are never really about the plot. It's like the mystery itself it's just a framing device to get us back into the lives of the characters and learn what they are up to. And the characters' stories are so rich and fascinating, especially as we are branching out and being aligned with more of them as their relationships shuffle around.

Actually really really good. One of the best in the series and certainly a story I would recommend.

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Buy book: UK
Broken Homes

Broken Homes

26th May 2016

The fourth book in the Rivers of London series is another thrilling and mysterious adventure for Peter Grant and his colleagues at The Folly, headquarters of the Metropolitan Police's only wizard division.

There's a lot that serves as confrontation of the series' ongoing plot and I don't think this one really works as a stand-alone without the knowledge of what has gone before. For those who are following the story it offers a lot, including some titbits of background and some major developments.

One of the aspects that I like best about this series is the simplicity of the magic system compared with the rich detail of the London setting. Aaronovitch demonstrates an endless knowledge of the capital and it's diverse cultural heritage which vastly increased the realism and depth of the story.

Quite possibly his best yet, and one which only increases my desire to keep reading.

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The Escape

The Escape

20th May 2016

I was slightly nervous about reading this book. I’ve really enjoyed reading Muchamore’s original Cherub series (to which this serves as a prequel), and have reached the point in the publication order where this book was published - and was not sure whether I would like this novel, set during the 1940s, as much.

This book is excellent. It continues Muchamore’s style of depicting life for teenagers as it really is, and I found myself engaging with all the characters and their situations despite the temporal and physical settings being less familiar to me. The plot is thrilling and action packed, and the plot moves at a rapid pace that kept me hooked throughout.

Like the other books, the realism needs to come with a parental warning - this is not sugar coated at all, and is pretty horrific in places, so care may be needed for more sensitive readers. I felt that this is the most authentic depiction of World War Two that I’ve ever experienced - and it gives a solid impression of what it might have been like to be a young person at the time.

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Buy book: UK
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