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Crystal of Storms

Crystal of Storms

Rhianna Pratchett

11th October 2020

This is the first Fighting Fantasy adventure I’ve tried - inspired, as I’m sure many others will be, by the choice of author. Rather than a novel, this is a choose-your-own adventure style game, which I’ve not tried since I was a child.

It’s clear that the format has evolved somewhat, as this has taken elements of role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, and involves combat and skill tests to find out how well I do on my adventure.

Sad to say, on my first attempt I failed totally to complete the mission - but I’m not put off and will try again soon!

A really enjoyable diversion for a few hours, and one that I’ll certainly try out on younger family members in the future.

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Jennings Unlimited

Jennings Unlimited

Anthony Buckeridge

11th October 2020

It’s been a while since my last trip to Linbury in my re-read of the Jennings series, but this was a welcome visit to the sixteenth novel.

This is an absolute classic of the series, in which everything adds up and ties together, with the distinct episodes clearly linked into one overall narrative, possibly in the best way of the series so far.

It’s funny, it’s silly, and it all make such perfect sense from the point of view of the ten-year-old main character.

I really enjoyed this re-read.

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Buy book: UK
The Mystery of the Chinese Junk

The Mystery of the Chinese Junk

Franklin W Dixon & James D Lawrence

11th October 2020

The Mystery of the Chinese Junk, thirty-ninth in the series, has an interesting setting for a fairly standard story.

The usual ingredients are present, Chet has a new hobby, people break into places, some racism, tons of coincidence, but with the unusual addition of gainful employ for the brothers and a lack of actual detection.

The story follows the usual format that I’m now immune to after so much exposure as I’ve re-read the series up to this point, and while the setting adds something unique and special, nothing else here seems to be.

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Buy book: UK
Secret Seven on the Trail

Secret Seven on the Trail

Enid Blyton

11th October 2020

The fourth Secret Seven story is a classic of the series.

The seven children’s antagonism with Jack’s sister Susie and her friends is in full evidence, and there are several nice interactions between the groups, and some meta-references which are mildly amusing.

The mystery is straightforward but solid, with a good number of clues and peril for a younger audience. The only letdown is that once again Blyton’s characters demonstrate their now-extremely-obvious sexism, and Peter in particular has started to come across as a bit of a prat.

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Buy book: UK
Troubled Blood

Troubled Blood

Robert Galbraith

11th October 2020

The fifth book in the Strike/Ellacott series was tainted by negative publicity at release, however I decided it was fair to give it a chance and confirm whether the media was trying to kick up a storm over nothing.

It’s a 900 page epic in which the detectives take on a cold case from forty-five years earlier, and over the course of a year (it feels a lot like a Harry Potter novel in that sense) try to solve the mystery while dealing with their own personal lives.

I found that it was a hugely compelling read, several times continuing to read far too late into the night. The mystery is well crafted and as complex and inter-weaving as the previous novel.

The main characters continue to be interesting, although also frustrating in many ways - a bit like the fifth Harry Potter novel, if only they’d talk to one another more then a lot of their angst would be resolved.

However it does feel like Rowling has made some avoidable choices which, when coupled with knowledge of her previous statements on social media, paint the book in a dark light. Admittedly, from another author the same plot points might go unmentioned - indeed some of them I’ve seen in other crime novels I’ve read this year - but because of the background it feels like Rowling is trying to reiterate her points. She could have taken different routes, or even picked up on the opportunity she gives herself to add balance - but she did not.

So… it’s 95% a good, entertaining story, and 5% problematic.

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More Beautiful Than Death

More Beautiful Than Death

David Mack

11th October 2020

The second ‘adult’ tie-in novel in the Kelvinverse - the timeline established in the JJ Abrams series of Star Trek movies - was written ten years ago but only now published (with tweaks by the author).

We meet Kirk and the crew some time after the first movie, carrying a diplomatic mission to a planet that’s requested aid from the Federation, and of course on arrival things become complicated.

I found however that I struggled to get into it. Each chapter felt like it ended at a convenient point to stop reading - not the level of compulsion to continue that I love. I’m not in general a huge reader of TOS stories, having not got the same relationship with those characters as with those who came later, and here my mental model of the characters has become really mixed - I was picturing Chris Pine’s Kirk, but James Doohan’s Scotty, and Ethan Peck’s Spock - with Bones fluctuating between actors’ faces.

So I’m afraid not one I feel I can recommend. Maybe if it had come out ten years ago I would have felt more connected to it, but at this stage I didn’t, and struggled.

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Buy book: UKUSBuy ebook: UK
The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club

Richard Osman

11th October 2020

Richard Osman’s debut novel is a fantastic mystery set in and around a retirement village - hobbyists at investigating cold cases who are drawn into investigating the death of one of the park’s owners.

There’s a rich collection of characters drawn from multiple background, who paint an entertaining picture of life here. They are hilarious in the way they deal with others involved, and the gradual feeding of information about their backgrounds is perfect.

The plot is a great mystery and moves at an excellent pace, following a comfortable pattern of the classics of the mystery genre while still feeling fresh.

A great story with a fantastic cast - I can imagine someone’s already started adapting it for TV - and I’m already desperate to get my hands on the sequel.

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The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon

Reading soon

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  2. Tales from the Folly