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Acts of Contrition

Acts of Contrition

18th October 2014

The latest novel in the Voyager continuation series follows immediately on from the previous story, 'Protectors'. The 'Full Circle' fleet, including Voyager, are continuing diplomatic relations with a new culture, but far more interesting are the side plots about the characters we know from the TV show.

This is the sixth book in the series that Kirsten Beyer has written, and I'm afraid to say I think it's all got a bit too convoluted to follow properly. I find that I can't remember what's happened well enough to understand the story properly, and it takes me most of the book to set in my mind who each of the new characters are. I think that at some point I'll have to do a full re-read to catch up. It's a shame as this happened before with New Frontier and the first DS9 relaunch, and I'd hoped that the editors might have improved things this time around.

This book is the middle of a three-book story arc, and continues a number of plot lines set up in earlier novels. I found (as always), Beyer's strongest storytelling is in the parts that deal closely with the characters, their families, and their interpersonal relationships. Her action pieces and even the science fiction don't entice me as much. In this novel, the story lines around Tom Paris, Seven of Nine, and The Doctor were particularly interesting, and I wished that far more had been made of these - the 'main' plot felt much more about positioning the pieces ready for the final act in the next book.

I didn't find this book as engaging as I would have liked, and I certainly didn't have an urge to constantly keep reading, but the plot is sound and I have enjoyed revisiting some familiar characters who continue to be written really well. I think that the next book should bring this sequence to a close though and allow for a good new entry point following that, to give new readers a chance to drop in without having to go through the back catalogue.

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Not a Drill

Not a Drill

18th October 2014

This year's Jack Reacher short story sees the character heading to the Canadian border and meeting up with some hikers, who encounter a mystery.

It's very short, and doesn't give the insight into the character that previous short stories have, instead being more about the plot, which is ultimately fairly straightforward. There's plenty of potential there for this to have become a longer tale, but it's not picked up on and actually feels a bit of a disappointment.

Although I knew it was short, I was saddened by how brief it was and felt that overall it didn't live up to the promise of the last couple of shorter stories in the Reacher series.

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Q Are Cordialy Uninvited

Q Are Cordialy Uninvited

18th October 2014

Another excellent novella in the Star Trek ebook-only line, this time giving the story behind one of the events that occurred between earlier novels - Captain Picard's wedding.

The story is a succinctly told adventure featuring a number of returning guest characters that Joseph writes perfectly. I very much enjoyed reading it and hope the author is able to contribute further to the Trek novel line.

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Buy ebook: UK
Hunting for Hidden Gold

Hunting for Hidden Gold

, &

18th October 2014

Book five of the original Hardy Boys series of adventure novels for children (originally teens) sees the pair of brothers head out into the wilds of America to help out their injured father on a case he's investigating. My copy is the UK 'translation' of the 1963 revised text.

This is the first book which is set completely away from the Hardy's hometown of Bayport, and it's a nice change of pace to not get the same cast of characters to help them out. There are a range of good guest characters, although I found I lost track of who some of them were meant to be. The change of pace with the rural setting does make the book feel more dated than the more city-style stories.

Overall another good adventure, through there have been better earlier books in the series.

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Buy book: UK
More Fool Me

More Fool Me

18th October 2014

The third volume of Stephen Fry's memoir covers the period of his younger adult life, as he progressed into the famous TV actor and comedian that made him famous. It could easily be titled "Stephen Fry: The Cocaine Years".

Fry tells his story in a plain and straightforward manner - almost apologetic in places lest he appear boastful or misremembers. Most of the book is told as a reflective memoir of his life, but a good chunk of the second half is his diary from the period in question, which supplies a nice countertone to the way he writes now for public consumption. Having said that, this makes the end feel abrupt and a bit flat, where both the previous instalments have seemed to end at a solid turning point in Fry's life.

I found it to be an interesting and entertaining read and would definitely recommend the three books to anyone who considers themselves a Fry fan. This volume however I think may be the weakest of the three.

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The Missing Chums

The Missing Chums

4th October 2014

I was surprised when I looked through the list of Hardy Boys books I'd not read to find one with what seemed such a ridiculous title. Further research showed that the original UK edition had even had the title 'translated' into British English as The Missing Friends. Despite this, the fourth book of the original series is better than the three that precede it.

My copy is a modern printing of the 1962 version of this title with the US English text. Once again the Hardys get involved in a local crime investigation, and two of their chums disappear.

This book is action packed and has a lot going on all the way through, keeping the reader engrossed - there's a good mystery to pick through, working out the motives and joining up the dots. Most of the regular elements seem to now be in place, and this makes good use of the established characters to add some peril that previous books in the series lacked.

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The Secret of the Old Mill

The Secret of the Old Mill

, &

28th September 2014

My copy of this, the third book in the original Hardy Boys series, is the updated (1962) and Britishified edition. The first two books I re-read recently both have a feeling of being the start of the series, but for the most part this one seems like it's written to be just a regular episode - although later on there are some new recurring elements introduced.

The plot this time feels patchy, and doesn't quite hold together properly - the Hardys are drawn into a hunt for some counterfeiters, but the line between their case and their father's becomes sketchy, and its not really clear through much of the story what is actually being investigated. What I can only assume is the 'update' introduces the idea of 'secret space missiles' which feel out of place and not very secret as everyone in the town knows about them.

The side characters again feel like they have more definition here than the stars - we know the Hardys' friend Chet Morton better than any other character by this point in the series whereas the Hardy Boys themselves still seem to have little to distinguish them from each other. This doesn't quite tally with some of my memories of reading the books twenty years ago when I recall one being more reserved and one more impulsive. Another aspect I hadn't remembered was the characters' reliance on motorbikes at this point in their history.

I think this is probably the weakest of the first three stories - the plot is unclear and the investigation seems to follow the right path without any real planning going into it. There are times when coincidence pushes the story too much and there's never a real sense of peril as there certainly was in the previous book.

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