Shastrix Books

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The Cliff House

The Cliff House

Christopher Brookmyre

3rd September 2022

Chris Brookmyre’s latest novel is a bit overwhelming at first - introducing a lot of characters very quickly, who make up the party going for a hen weekend on a remote Scottish island.

Once I’d got my head around the cast though the plot moves at a fantastic pace and the intrigue flows throughout the rest of the text, which I devoured very quickly.

The classic Brookmyre feel is here, though the structure is a bit different. Finding out the characters’ backstories is key, but that’s dripped throughout, rather than taking half the book to get through before the action kicks in.

I had so many thoughts and ideas of what the secrets might be, and am glad not to have been totally caught out by the end. A really great fun modern mystery.

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Skyward Flight

Skyward Flight

Brandon Sanderson & Janci Patterson

3rd September 2022

Sunreach

A shorter step back into Brandon Sanderson's Skyward series with this first of three novellas co-authored by Janci Patterson, focussed on secondary characters who don't get focus time in the main novels.

This one follows FM, a pilot, as she goes about her daily business of flying battles and investigating slugs, roughly in parallel to the third main novel.

It took me a few chapters to get back into the swing of the universe, but once there I was just as, if not more, hooked by the narrative. There's a subtly different tone to the writing I think which makes it easier to read, less choppy perhaps, and I'm not sure whether this is because of the shared authorship or a deliberate stylistic choice because of the change of focus character.

It'll be really interesting to see how the subsequent two novellas compare.

ReDawn

The second of Patterson and Sanderson's novellas set in this universe, we follow the story from a new cultural point of view.

As well as providing a new insight into known characters and factions, this provides for a fascinating bonus piece of world-building as we see an alien culture up close with many differences from the humans we've otherwise spent time with.

The plot surprised me this time by feeling far more integral to the overall storyline of the series. I was expecting these novellas to just be supplementary, but this really feels like it's necessary reading, and that everything here is going to come to affect the final novel.

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The Final Strife

The Final Strife

Saara El-Arifi

3rd September 2022

This first book in a new trilogy, heavily marketed to me by the publisher, opens in the classic fantasy fashion of throwing a bunch of terminology at me without fully explaining it. While this can be a bad sign, in this case it was not, and I was soon absolutely hooked.

It’s a rich and fascinating world that El-Arifi has created, with layer upon layer of complexity which peeks through to the reader, sometimes more than to the characters, and hints of so much more to come.

There is a strong theme of equality running through, obviously being parallels to classism, racism, and slavery. But there’s also a lot of the world that in other ways is very tolerant and diverse - covering LGBTQ+ and disabilities, making sure that despite the focus of the man plot, there is broad representation in this world.

The book is rich in themes, and centres on friendship, family, and duty. I imagine that every reader will be able to pick out their own unique empathies within the text.

The marketing team did their job well matching me to this book, and I’m now waiting to get my hands on more by this author as soon as it’s available.

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The Apollo Murders

The Apollo Murders

Chris Hadfield

3rd September 2022

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while and been nervous to start it. I’m not usually a huge thriller reader any more, but the appeal of an actual astronaut author overruled that in this case.

This is the story of a militarised Apollo 18 mission, an eighth moon mission from Nasa. And it’s quite well done. There’s a good mix of fictional main characters with real people who worked on the space programme at the time, and the characters are well rounded and built out, and full of interesting things to learn.

The plot is outlandish but in no way unbelievable. There’s quite a lot to set up the action, but it’s not unlike many other novels in the genre.

I did feel much more engaged through the middle part of the novel. The structure reminds me of Star Trek IV (“the one with the whales”), in which the middle of the film was written by a different screenwriter from the ends. In is case the parts of the story which occur in space were gripping much more than those parts on earth, and I wonder if this is because of that connection to the real space experience of the author. It’s reminiscent of the Apollo 13 movie in some respects, particular that realism feeling around the interactions between astronauts and their mission control.

The one stylistic choice that I found took me out of the narrative is that at moments of high tension, it switches out of the fast paced action to spend paragraphs on really technical detail before concluding the action. I think this is meant to heighten the suspense, but for me it just feels like glorifying something unnecessary instead of keeping the focus on the story.

Overall though, really impressed, and would totally read another novel by Hadfield.

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Wipeout

Wipeout

Franklin W Dixon

12th August 2022

The Hardy brothers head to the south of France (where it seems everybody speaks English in 1989) to help an old friend who is entering a windsurfing competition.

It’s quite in the style of a classic whodunnit, with a house full of guests, lots of suspects, and lots of motives. The boys even go a bit Poirot setting up schemes to help unmask the villain.

Not a bad adventure at all.

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Danger on the Air

Danger on the Air

Franklin W Dixon

12th August 2022

The Hardy brothers take part in an explosive TV show in their 95th adventure.

The series feels like it’s back on an educational journey in the late 80s, with plots seemed designed to teach readers, in his case about how TV is made and the various technologies involved.

The plot is complex, with a good range of characters, suspects, and motives, but I’m not sure is given quite enough information up front to make it meet the true criteria of a mystery story.

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Breakdown in Axeblade

Breakdown in Axeblade

Franklin W Dixon

12th August 2022

The Hardy brothers head off to Wyoming in their van, which promptly breaks down, abandoning them in the weird town of Axeblade.

The novel feels weirdly like a proto-Lee Child/Jack Reacher thriller, as the boys meet the locals who are varying levels of unfriendly, and work out the mystery of the town.

It’s an odd entry in the series, but not terrible.

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Her Majesty's Royal Coven

Reading soon

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  2. The Hedge Witch
  3. The Cartographers
  4. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow