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Death Masks

Death Masks

26th July 2015

Death Masks is the fifth book in the Dresden Files series, which tells the story of Chicago’s only Wizard Private Investigator. This time he’s hired by a priest visiting the city from the Vatican to help recover a stolen artefact, which leads to an intriguing and rather complicated plot which I’m not sure I completely followed.

There is the usual mix of apical action and witty banter, and a stronger emotional undercurrent than perhaps we’ve seen before in the series, as events from previous books are followed up and some plot threads are seemingly tied up. At the same time, this book introduces a number of new threads, which look like they are going to spread through the series to come.

While I enjoyed reading this, possibly the most of the books so far, I did feel that it was leaning towards the more implausible end of the urban fantasy spectrum, particularly in some of the detail around the scenario in this book. Additionally, the introduction of a range of new enemies made for a lot of new information to absorb, and I don’t think I managed to digest everything that it had to offer.

Unlike the first few books, which could be described along the lines of ‘Dresden does Vampires’, ‘Dresden does Wereworlves’, etc., this story defies such classification, and I think that’s a good thing - it shows a little maturity of the series that it can start to do its own thing, and begin to build up some of the ongoing plot threads that I hope build into something fantastic int he books I have yet to read.

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The Returned part one

The Returned part one

26th July 2015

It's been a few years since the last outing of the USS Excalibur as part of the novel-only Star Trek: New Frontier series, and I had thought that the series had run its course. I’ve been reading the stories since they began in the late 1990s, and although I found the first couple of tranches very enjoyable, felt it had lost its way toward the later end of its life.

So I was surprised when 'The Returned' was announced - a set of three ebooks continuing the adventures of Captain Calhoun and his crew. And, despite having little recollection of where the most recent books had left the characters, I found it easy to pick up and get back into this world.

Peter David gradually reintroduces the key characters, and it feels a bit like he's going around getting the band back together. This first part of the story is very much focussed on laying the land - getting the characters into place, getting the reader up to speed, and introducing some of the elements, both new and old, that will come into play (presumably) in the following two volumes.

A very satisfactory short story and introduction to this trilogy, and one that I felt served well as a reintroduction. I’m definitely going to continue reading with the remaining two ebooks over the coming months, and hope that they are just as good.

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The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding

26th July 2015

Almost certainly the most unusually titled entry in the Poirot series, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding put me in mind of episodes of the Postman Pat and Vicar of Dibley TV series, in which each of the title characters have to eat too much at Christmas. However that’s not the case here, where in fact this is just one of a collection of short stories released under this banner.

The first two stories are fantastic, and depict Poirot at the height of his abilities, and Christie presents both in a way that leaves the reader wanting more. Both carry the rich array of characters and intrigue that make the series so strong, and the mystery is pleasantly and enjoyably resolved.

The three later Poirot stories in this collection didn’t quite grip me with the same intensity - while they are all good mysteries, they didn’t feel quite as substantial and indeed in two of them I felt it was rather too obvious what was going on.

The final story provides an interesting twist, as I was thrown back into the world of Miss Marple - a character who I thought I had read everything about, and it was very nice to experience a story again from that perspective, even though it suffered similarly to the two earlier books in being rather obvious what was going on.

All in all, a nice little collection, with a couple of chunky substantial stories and some other short diversions.

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Buy book: UK
The Concrete Blonde

The Concrete Blonde

10th July 2015

I have conflicted feelings about this book, and I'm not sure whether that's through any fault of its own.

bought a cheap box set of the first ten Harry Bosch books, having read online that Connelly's work resembled John Grisham in the legal thriller stakes. Interestingly this is the first one that actually is a legal thriller, but it failed to grip me.

Partly, I suspect that this was because I had just finished an amazingly awesome book when I picked this up, and so anything would have felt like a let down after that. But I wasn't fantastically enamoured with the previous books in the series and when the opening chapters here didn't grip me - and had a feeling of just another generic cop story - I felt unmotivated to read it and eventually swapped it for something else.

I may come back to this book - or this may be where my readership of Connelly's works end. It was certainly worth a try but ultimately I think if rather spend my time with books in going to actively enjoy reading.1

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The Mystery of the Strange Bundle

The Mystery of the Strange Bundle

10th July 2015

This time out the Five Find-Outers have all been ill in the holidays and it seems they'll be back to school without a mystery to solve, when one suddenly appears just two houses away.

I'm starting to feel that the series has started to lose its way by this point - with some of the lighter elements moving toward absurdity and distancing themselves from the realism that I enjoyed about the earlier books.

There is also a scene that actually shocked me - I had no memory of this book from when I was younger, so I imagine it wasn't one that I regularly re-read, and I'm not surprised if a scene like that can happen - it's the sort of thing that would definitely have major repercussions if it happened today but was kind of ignored here.

Overall, nothing special as far as the series goes, even a bit disappointing really.

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Buy book: UK
Warbreaker

Warbreaker

10th July 2015

I'm surprised how nervous I get about picking up a Brandon Sanderson book that's not from a series I'm already familiar with (this is, so far, a standalone). I should have learnt by now that all his books are fantastic, and by the end of them I'm always desperate to pick up another as soon as possible.

Warbreaker is no exception. A story about two princesses in a world of magic, who both visit a neighbouring country in a reversal of their previous roles. Sanderson's exploration of these two characters (and a couple of others) really makes this book, and I really enjoyed seeing them explore who they were and find their places in the world.

The world itself is another marvel of Sanderson's imagination - he's constructed yet another of his detailed magic systems and a pair of counterbalanced cultures that have real depth and layers that keep on peeling to reveal more and more. I find it hard to fathom how he has become so great at creating these places and the stories to go with them.

Once again a great read and one that I can easily imagine me returning to re-read in the future. Easily the best thing I've read for ages - to the extent that the books I picked up afterwards felt bland and lifeless by comparison.

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Sacraments of Fire

Sacraments of Fire

10th July 2015

The Star Trek litverse returns to Deep Space Nine in a book that runs parallel to the events of the 'The Fall' mini series, as well as some of the stories that followed it. It also begins to fill in the major DS9 continuity gap that was left between the original relaunch novels and the Destiny trilogy.

It's difficult to describe the plot without spilling spoilers all over the shop - but it's a great ride that catches up with a number of characters from the series and truly does them justice. George's writing captures the spirit of DS9 and weaves a fantastic tale from the various threads.

One of the things I like most about George's novels is that they don't make an assumption that you remember everything that has gone before. He's got the balance just right to fill you in with what you need to know without it feeling like a full recap. There are also subtle hints at things from other stories that make you smile if you spot them but don't break your flow if not.

Another great DS9 novel and I hope for many more to come, not least the immediate follow up which is due in the winter.

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Reading soon

  1. A is for Alibi
  2. The Gunslinger
  3. Dèjá Dead
  4. The Name of the Wind
  5. Fearless
  6. Dissolution
  7. Postmortem
  8. Blind Fury
  9. Headhunters
  10. Strike Zone
  11. Girl Missing
  12. The Last Don
  13. Divergent
  14. Labyrinth
  15. The Left Hand of God
  16. The Sinister Signpost
  17. The Daylight War
  18. Dead Man's Grip
  19. The Murder Bag
  20. Shelter
  21. Death is Forever
  22. High Five
  23. Set in Darkness
  24. The General
  25. Trapped
  26. Whispers Underground
  27. Dangerous Women part two