Shastrix Books

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The Knot

The Knot

13th November 2017

A relatively light tale about a wedding photographer, telling the story of his life, loves and family. I say relatively light as I’d just escaped from a novel set in hell and as such this was vastly happier reading and I devoured it in the course of a single Saturday.

I read the author’s novel ‘Eleven’ some years ago, and have seen his stand-up performances a couple of times, and picked this up thinking it would be a barrel of laughs. It’s not, although it does have humorous moments - in fact it’s quite a deep and emotional tale about relationships between family members.

I imagine that it will divide readers, but personally I enjoyed reading it and it certainly made me think and go on a short emotional trip of my own.

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Happy Hour in Hell

Happy Hour in Hell

13th November 2017

Wow this book is grim. It’s some years since I read the first book in the trilogy, The Dirty Streets of Heaven, and I’d forgotten exactly how I’d felt after finishing it. In this, book two, Bobby Dollar, angel, heads to Hell to try to rescue his girlfriend.

The character’s travels through the many layers of Hell are covered in excruciating detail, far more than I could have thought possible, and it just becomes hard to read - there’s only so much that I can cope with in one train journey, and I often found myself stopping much earlier than usual just to escape.

The book took me a surprisingly long time to get through, given my usual reading speed, and this was brought home to me by the next two books I read being devoured in the course of two days, demonstrating the relief at getting away from how dark and depressing this book was.

I think it will be some time before I return for the conclusion of the trilogy.

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Carry on Jeeves

Carry on Jeeves

13th November 2017

A collection of short stories, mainly covering Bertie Wooster's time living in New York, including his first encounter with Jeeves, helping out a number of chums in matters of love and money, and in the final story seeing one experience from Jeeves' own point of view.

It's a nice little collection, if rather repetitive between some of the stories, and I wondered if perhaps they would be better read more spaced out. The writing didn't quite align with my memory of the Wodehouse style from reading some of his novels al few years ago, and I'm not sure whether it's my memory that's wrong or if theses are earlier works from a different part of the writer's career.

A pleasant diversion, but not one of Wodehouse's best in my opinion.

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Original Sin

Original Sin

22nd October 2017

David R. George III has become the main author of the ongoing Deep Space Nine adventures, and this is the next step in his juggling of the number of storylines needed for such a wide ranging series. This novel focusses on the Sisko family, as Captain Sisko's ship, the USS Robinson, heads off to explore further into the Gamma Quadrant.

I'm struggling to work out how to review this without making it too spoilery... let's say that there are two plotlines that run through the book featuring a number of parallels, which answer some of the questions those of us who have been reading for (technically now) decades have been asking.

George performs the masterful Star Trek trick of tying together real science fiction concepts and exploration of new worlds and cultures with metaphorical reflection on our own society, with only a little thought required on behalf of the reader to understand the analogies and the lessons intended for the audience.

While Ben Sisko isn't generally my favourite DS9 character, and its huge ensemble cast being one of the reasons its my favourite Trek series, this is a solid entry in the continuation and one that I'd happily recommend to anyone who is reasonably caught up - there are very few elements that require the reader to be fully up to date.

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Parsnips, Buttered

Parsnips, Buttered

22nd October 2017

This is a comedic book of advice, based on examples from the author's own life, of how to be silly about things. It reads very much in his voice, as when tells similar stories during his stand-up routines, and the sense of humour is very clear.

The book is constructed of a series of short chapters, which each tell a different anecdote, often featuring false identities that Lycett has created online to perpetuate his particular brand of mischief. This makes for an incredibly easy to read book that I devoured in two sittings, chuckling throughout.

If you enjoy his humour on television, then you will find this is very much in the same vein, and you should give it a try. The illustrations are excellent too.

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The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger

14th October 2017

​The first novel in Stephen King's Dark Tower epic introduces us to Roland, a gunslinger on a quest to pursue a dark wizard. It's been on my shelf for some time, and after enjoying the recent film based on his novel It, I thought it time to give it a go.

It's slow. The plot plods along with little clear direction. Pretty much the entire book is about slowly building the world, and it feels like painfully little detail stretched over several long sections. The most interesting parts are the flashbacks to Roland's childhood, and they do the most to build him up and give an insight into his character.

The scenes in the present however are dull and dreary. Very little happens, and it feels like King's idea of epic just means long and unmoving. The scenes make little sense - with not a lot following logically from what's gone before, and the narrative does little to explain what's meant to be real and what illusion. And ultimately they do little to entertain or inform the reader.

So I was unimpressed and am uninspired to pick up more of the series. The language used seemed pretentious and unnecessary, and the narrative did little to make me care about what happens to the character. I have the mildest of temptation to see if it changes as the series progresses, but don't really think I will bother - instead using my time to read more deserving books.

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Buy book: UK
Desperate Hours

Desperate Hours

14th October 2017

​David Mack has the honour and challenge of being the first tie-in author to dip his feet into the world of Star Trek: Discovery - the seventh TV series in the franchise. As a novel released the day after the first episode is broadcast, it's hard not to take anything it says with a pinch of salt (remember Data's backstory from the novelisation of Encounter at Farpoint - later completely changed by the TV series), but it seems Mack has had full access to the writers and scripts from the TV production team and the series is being written as one whole rather than discrete episodes, so maybe this will stand the test of time.

This story is set a year before the opening episode of the TV series, and sees Burnham as a newly minted first officer facing a distress call from a rebel colony. It also features a guest appearance by a familiar ship and crew member and goes some way to dealing with some of the questions that long term audiences might have. That said, I do wonder if these aspects are being explored only in the novels what the point was/is of having set the story up in quite this way for TV.

It's a fairly average Trek novel actually. A bit reminiscent of the early TNG novels in terms of the plot. The pre-TV setting is good as it means Mack is free to play around with the characters and not be bound by putting them back in the box. He does a fair bit to give background to both Burnham and Saru which goes beyond what we've learnt from TV, and this to me is what makes the book most compelling.

Conclusion: if you like Star Trek novels, or want to like Star Trek novels, then go for it. If you're new and curious, up to you. If you only watch TV, then carry on watching TV.

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The Mystery of the Flying Express

Reading soon

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  3. The Core
  4. S. N. U. F. F.
  5. The Crossing Places
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  8. Solitude Creek
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  11. Sleeping Late On Judgment Day
  12. Holy Cow
  13. Prince of Thorns
  14. A is for Alibi
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  16. The Name of the Wind
  17. Fearless
  18. Dissolution
  19. Postmortem
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  22. Divergent
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  24. The Left Hand of God
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  26. Death is Forever
  27. The Maze Runner
  28. Research
  29. The Whole Truth
  30. The Disappearing Spoon
  31. Oh Dear Silvia
  32. Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
  33. Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman
  34. The Listerdale Mystery
  35. The Wheel of Time Companion
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  40. The Road to Mars
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  42. The Atrocity Archives