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Love's Latinum Lost (and Found)

Love's Latinum Lost (and Found)

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8th September 2014

This first foray into fiction by two of Trek's fantastic non-fiction authors makes for a brilliant short read. The story follows Quark as he goes on a little business adventure, and the short format has the exact same feel as one of the Ferengi-focused episodes of the TV series.

The pace is good, and I although I got through the story in just two sittings I felt this trip back to a world populated by some of my favourite characters was worth the low price.

The authors clearly have a strong grip on all things DS9 and drop in plenty of references back to the series. Their companion for the TV series is probably my favourite non-fiction work about Star Trek and this move proves they can be as good at writing their own stories - I hope they have the opportunity to pen some more.

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Personal

Personal

8th September 2014

Jack Reacher is back in London, which proves awkward reading for someone familiar with the UK as the author (through his character’s first-person narration) goes out of the way to explain local idiom to the American audience.

That aside, it's another fast-paced adventure that sees Reacher working with the military once again. This seems to have become something of a theme over the most recent books and it's a bit of a departure from the format I've enjoyed - I'm not sure Reacher quite works as a government official as his motivation doesn't seem as strong.

The plot felt a little weak to me this time out. Maybe I've just become used to the style, but a lot of the twists I felt could been coming a long way ahead and the knowledge didn't really aid my enjoyment of the story.

So overall an average story from the Jack Reacher series - probably not the first one I'd point a new reader to, but one that did the job for me.

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Sycamore Row

Sycamore Row

8th September 2014

Marketed as the sequel to Grisham's first novel 'A Time to Kill', Sycamore Row joins the same lawyer from the earlier book three years later. Beyond the reappearance of the same characters and some themes though the plot is entirely distinct and could easily have been told about another young lawyer in a southern town in the late 1980s.

The main issue with this story to me is that it's the 1980s and about racism. It feels like this is a subject that Grisham has now covered as nauseum - perhaps I'm not meant to have read his entire output, but it feels like he's covering the same ground again. The 1980s also feel far to recent to me, admittedly a British reader born in that decade, and I find it hard to believe the racism presented was really still around at that point (although from recent news coverage perhaps it still is). In my head, the setting kept getting pushed back 20 years to the sixties, which felt a more natural fit for the story, regardless of what the actual situation may have been.

It was good however to get another courtroom-based drama from Grisham, as that tends to be where he's at his best. The structure was good and brings the plot along well, and the book doesn't suffer from some of the tropes that have appeared in several of the author's earlier works. Despite the realism, there is one aspect of the conclusion that I found irritating and unsatisfying, but I'm nervous of mentioning it specifically for fear of it being deemed a spoiler.

Generally enjoyable, and nice to be able to relax with a solid courtroom drama that I could digest at a nice pace. I've now read all Grisham's output to date and can look forward to reading the next book on release.

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It's Only a Movie

It's Only a Movie

8th September 2014

I’ve been listening to Mark Kermode’s podcast for several years, and had three of his books sitting on my shelf for some time, but this is the first time I’ve picked one up to read. It’s a really engaging look at a few highlights of the life of the UK’s most famous film critic, told in a way that it honestly admits to being ‘based on real events’.

It's full of the jokes I've come to expect from listening to the radio programme, and it offers an insight into the character of Kermode and his backstory through the medium of the witty anecdote. There were some places where I felt that if I were more of a film buff I'd appreciate it more, particularly when movie industry figures appear who I've not heard of.

Overall a good autobiography that doesn't take itself seriously and has a voice that you can recognise as that of the author. An enjoyable read.

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Fool's Assassin

Fool's Assassin

1st September 2014

Fitz is back for his seventh book, and overall the fourteenth full length fantasy novel set in Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings. It’s a fantastic start to a new series within the series, following Fitz some years after the end of his last adventure as he lives the perfect life he’s always wanted.

I really love Hobb's writing and it's always fantastic to return to her world which is incredibly immersive and which I am always disappointed to have to put down. The character of Fitz continues to be appealing and I always enjoy time spent in his company.

Having said that, there were aspects of this novel that felt less thought-through than in the previous novels - the foreshadowing was overly obvious throughout much of the novel which made some of the reveals less surprising than they might have been. It seemed to be done to the point that the characters seemed stupid for not being able to see it, but I suppose it could be argued that this was presented deliberately in this way to fit the first-person narrative.

The plot is quite episodic, particularly through the first half or more, with us joining the narrative for a particular incident or two before jumping forward in time, sometimes years, and I think I found this frustrating because I love spending time with the characters and felt I was missing out. However there are also larger shifts in plot which make quite dramatic changes which felt forced, as if they could have been done with a more subtle and smoother transition.

Despite this, I absolutely loved this book and can't wait for the next one. I enjoy every single moment that a Fitz story is in my hands and can imagine myself wanting to pick one up again before next year.

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A Delicate Truth

A Delicate Truth

25th August 2014

It’s taken me a while to get round to reading A Delicate Truth - I’m still slightly intimidated by John le Carré, having the idea that as he’s such a well known author that his books will be too literary and hard to get into. This is of course not at all the case, and as with his previous novel I was hooked straight away.

The story follows a couple of characters who were involved (tangentially) in a minor undercover operation as they try to piece together what actually happened. It’s a captivating plot that feels very engaging, though on reflection manages to do surprisingly well at suspending the reader’s disbelief and makes the events feel completely plausible.

It’s easy to sympathise with both main characters - probably too easy, as a bit more depth and shade would have made them and their motivations more interesting. In fact, they are probably too similar - there’s not a massive amount beyond age to differentiate them.

One aspect I really enjoyed was the structure of the novel. It’s split into just seven chapters, alternating in point of view between the two characters, and staying with them for many pages. This helps the pace to keep flowing and builds tension as we’re away from each of them for considerable amounts of time.

I really enjoyed reading this novel, and must learn not to think of le Carré as intimidating. It’s a very approachable ‘spy’ novel and one I’d definitely recommend.

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Gardens of the Moon

Gardens of the Moon

24th August 2014

The first book in what looks to be a vast series of novels by two authors, Gardens of the Moon’s introduction suggests that it’s not a book for everyone, and that many people drop out at the start. The author’s position is that he has thrown the reader straight in without introduction, and that in doing so some readers are alienated. If you get to page 250, he says, you’ll be hooked forever.

Sadly, I’m one of the group who didn’t reach page 250. I got just past page 200 before deciding, reluctantly, that I didn’t have enough motivation to continue reading, and realising that the dread of this specific novel was putting me off reading in general.

I disagree however with the author’s suggestion that being thrown into the deep end of the plot was the problem. I didn’t feel that this novel threw plot straight at me any more than any other I’ve read. What I felt was missing was any sort of connection with the characters. The characters that seemed there to develop into starring roles came across as blank - empty of personality and just there for the plot to happen to. I thought that the story entered at the right point - it didn’t explain a load of background (but what novel does?) - instead allowing the reader to pick things up as the characters encountered them.

I can’t say it’s a bad book - clearly it’s a popular series and the story is well built, but I didn’t engage with the characters and couldn’t bring myself to continue reading something I wasn’t enjoying at the expense of time with other books. As such, it’s really hard to attribute a star rating to the book.

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