Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Flight 103

Featuring a former Mossad agent turned antique dealer, Sam Green's second book (at least, I think it's his second book, give me one sec to check...  It's his second fiction book featuring Sam Woolfman, he's written non-fiction before) is a fast-paced, enjoyable read.  An interesting enough plot with an intriguing conspiracy theory about the Lockerbie bombing, it actually manages to weave together two investigations without either becoming drowned out.  There's a bit of a romance thrown in for good measure too--although it's not really much more than the standard romance thrown into a thriller.

It feels real, and it's rather unputdownable.  What more could you ask for in a thriller?  Woolfman is perhaps not the most well developed character I've found in a thriller, but having said that I thoroughly enjoy Matthew Reilly's work and someone's said of those books 'the characters don't live long enough to have personalities'...  The antiques business side is also convincingly written, as is the conspiracy involving a cover-up by the Catholic church.

In fact, my only worry with the series (I enjoyed Max, the first one too--although I don't seem to have reviewed it, sorry), is that by setting the story at a definite point Sam Green is going to struggle to cover more modern conspiracies etc.  Characters set in real time unfortunately age.  I hope that there're plenty more issues in the recent past to turn over and rewrite.  (The ageing problem is also present in James Barrington's excellent series, where the main character served in the Falklands war, and who knows how old Jack Higgins Sean Dillon is now, but that's not quite as much of an issue as they're set less at a definite time with definite events).

If you're looking for an interesting and unputdownable thriller, this is a great choice.

Nanowrimo 2010

Gosh, I really haven't posted in a while, have I?!  Well, apart from that last post I put in a few moments ago, but that's not what I meant.  I haven't told you that I had my fourth Nanowrimo attempt, and my fourth win in November.  Wonderful fun.

My novel was entitled Firejuggler, and I managed to write the entire thing in the month.  My official word count was 113,114, which I reckon was a pretty intriguing number to come up with with absolutely no way of being able to tell what would come out the official word count machine since Open Office is rather more generous in counting words (and don't ask me how a word count can be different depending on who counts it--it's a mystery that puzzles me as well).  It actually went surprisingly well.  I had one character which showed up, then I decided I didn't want it, then I figured that actually, I did need that character after all.  I did that last year as well actually, with a similar sort of character.  Hmm.  I also had a couple of other unexpected characters, and the grand scheme of the plot appeared when I was 60,000 words in, and then when I was 100,000 words in, and trying to actually follow a plan I realised that actually, the plan had it all wrong and the conclusion would be reached in an entirely different manner.  So that needs smoothing over, and there's one or two extra scenes I need to bob in, but it's remarkably intact, considering the whole thing showed up in a month and that I started with a scene and two main and one minor characters.  The rest of it just appeared as I wrote (and as I pondered it too, I guess).

Nanowrimo really does represent a remarkable creative event.  There'll be another one next year, and I strongly recommend you get involved if you've ever considered writing a novel.  Or even if you do write novels.  It forces you to write and not worry too much about those niggling little details and the words that you can't spell and the occasional clunky sentence, and instead to tell a story.  And let's face it, even if you've got the best writing in the world, if your plot is utter drivel no one's gonna enjoy it (the reverse is also true--although I'm more likely to persevere with an interesting plot and bad/mediocre writing than good writing and no/boring plot).

Should I tell you a little more about Firejuggler as it turned out to be?  Oh, actually, I had the title right from the start as well which is pretty unusual for me.  My story folders are full of things like 'Football Start.4' and 'Nutmeg's First Day' and 'Random Story'....

Sha is a firejuggler, but he wasn't always a wandering entertainer.  Once, he was a respected soldier in the Royal Army, but after the Protector took over England, things for Sha have gone from bad to worse.  Persecuted not only for his ties to the 'ancient regime' but also for his refusal--indeed, his physical inability--to give up practising the highly addictive fire magic, he's serving the resistance movement as a messenger as well as doing 'tricks' to earn coin.  Until he discovers that the princess, rightful heir to the Naablian throne, is not dead as everyone thought but is very much alive, even if she doesn't know who she is and is utterly oblivious to the magic bubbling up inside her, ready to explode from her when the protective curse laid upon her at birth to prevent her using it until she turns eighteen.  Princess Graci is forced to leave her home, embark on a rather perilous journey, and learn about the magic Sha insists she should have known about from birth, that she should have been taught about so that she can control the addictive impulses of the magic.  The trouble, as she rapidly realises, is that Sha himself is heavily addicted to the magic.  While it makes him a powerful practiser, it also leaves him with headaches and vulnerable to apparently random destructive whims.

And I think that'll do as a plot description.  There are soldiers, dragons, plots, arguments, and orphans involved too, but I don't want to make my summary too complicated now do I?

The Whig Interpretation of History

This was one of those 'historiography' books that people say you should read when you're studying history so that you understand the subject.  For those of you who aren't historians, historiography is effectively the study of history--and the history of history.  It can be quite interesting, it can be rather dull.  Most books that I've read so far (actually, make that: the two books excluding this one) are in the rather dull and slightly incomprehensible category.  This one was in the 'actually, that was rather interesting and well written' category.

Apparently, this book was rather influential, although the 'whigish' method of history which was criticised was beginning to fall out of favour even before its publication.  At any rate, some of what's said seems like common sense to me now, based on what we've been told about doing history in lectures etc, but I am beginning to wonder whether seeing what I know about history in this book is like (hopefully!) seeing what a preacher talks about in the Bible.

At any rate, it's a nice short book (fall on the floor stunned!) and apart from a criticism of Lord Acton in the final chapter of the book does a remarkably good job of attacking ideas and principles rather than specific historians.  In short, unlike Evans' 'In Defence of History' and one or two other things I've looked at, it doesn't feel like the historian has a personal grudge they want to settle with a fellow historian they fell out with at high school.  (Although Evans' 'In Defence of History' is still a pretty decent book, and for those of you who happen to be studying history might have noticed, a rather standard authority in terms of historical practice, even if it does confuse the issues of postmodernism rather more than it helps clarify them).  Sorry.  That was a rather long digression from what was meant to be a review of 'The Whig Interpretation of History'.  Wait, I should be using italics, not quotes...  One of the many things I have discovered about footnoting while at Cambridge is that I can never seem to manage to follow all of the little rules at once.  And so I have apparently yet to submit an essay which has the footnotes done completely right.  But anyway.  That's even more of a digression.

The Whig Interpretation of History is remarkably well written, and constantly tied down to a specific historical period--for most of the book, the Reformation and Luther, though other bits receive mention.  The basic argument is that abridged history becomes, almost by default, very 'whiggish' in its tone and outlook, showing the great 'march of progress' and smoothing over historical complications by relegating everyone to either pro or anti progress.  So, for example, the Catholics were reactionaries trying to preserve a corrupt old order and Luther was a revolutionary thinker who brought about religious liberty and created the modern rights to freedom of worship.  But Butterfield makes the point succinctly that in fact, history is rather more complex than that.  Luther wanted, ideally, an equally dominating religious autocracy on slightly different lines to the Catholic set up.  What really created religious toleration was the clash of ideologies.  An interesting point, and certainly one that seems viable.

History, Butterfield argues, is complication.  And from what I've seen of it since starting A-levels it certainly seems to be.  People defy neat categorisation.  For example, how would a historian in fifty years time slot me into their equations?  I'm studying at Cambridge--therefore I'm of an academic turn of mind.  I'm a young female who happens to have a thing for aircraft and builds Airfix models--usually the stereotypical preserve of older men.  I'm a Christian, but not a member of the 'established' church--both churches that I go to (up here in Preston and down in Cambridge) are 'free' churches with an emphasis on salvation by grace.  Spirit fill churches, would probably be the best way of describing them.  Aren't people who are 'intelligent' meant to be atheists too?  Whenever the library does a display of 'books for men' and 'books for women', I find half the books on the men's stand are ones I've read, and I've rarely read any on the women's stand.  Oh, and I live in a 'nuclear' family--mum, dad (been married for nearly 30 years) and younger brother.  Aren't we supposed to be in a society where most people don't live in that sort of family?  At any rate, you could classify me in any one of several dozen methods, and the same is true of any person.  Societies have multiple layers of meaning and interaction, and it's impossible to completely unravel the complexities of our own time, let alone in the past when we have to start relying on sources that by their very appearance and survival tend to be atypical.

So, I think what I'm trying to say is that this is a very interesting book that also happens to be well written and isn't excessively long.  In short, a wonderful historiography book to take a look at.  And perfectly comprehensible.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Nanowrimo 2010

Well, in just under four hours, the annual event of literary mayhem begins.  National Novel Writing Month 2010 looks set to be the largest so far, and it's not too late to start now.  Who needs a plan anyway?  I still haven't decided which of the two ideas I have buzzing around pestering me to write.  In fact, I haven't finished writing the story that I really ought to get finished before November begins yet...

So what, I hear you ask (or at least, I hypothetically pretend that you ask), is National Novel Writing Month?  Well, it's basically a challenge to write 50,000 words on a new novel in the month of November.  That works out at 1667 words per day, which is easily doable, trust me on that one.  I've managed it three years running, and I hope to make this a fourth consecutive 'win' (all finishers who verify their wordcount before midnight, local time, on November 30th, are winners).  The site is currently very slow, but that's because novellers all over the globe are checking in as they set off on the adventure of a lifetime.  Or at least, the adventure of the year which doesn't even require leaving your chair.

If you have ever had any desire to write a novel, now's your chance.  Don't miss out!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Raising Atlantis

Yup.  I've read another book involving the discovery of Atlantis as its central theme.  And while you might think I'd be getting a little tired of that idea by now, I have to say this version is remarkably interesting.  For one thing, the romance is a little more thought out than 'fit girl + fit guy + adventure = everyone chucks their clothes off', which is always encouraging.  In fact, in the whole trilogy (what can I say, it was enjoyable, the library happened to have all three of them hanging about so I've now read them all...) there isn't any major throwing off of clothes.  Which is quite exceptional for a thriller.  Anyway, that minor digression aside, it's got a very interesting plot, and a fascinating main character (or main two characters in fact--Sister Serenghetti is a fantastic character and definitely more three dimensional than a lot of women in thrillers--or characters in general in thrillers).  A different decision of locating Atlantis than any I've seen before, and an interesting location for it at that.

Lots of excitement, the sciency and historically stuff is plausible enough (I confess I'm no expert on ancient history or on science, but it certainly made sense), and... lots of excitement.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and there's an interesting twist on the archaeologist main character.  He's a rather discredited bloke amongst the scientific community, a bit of an iconoclast, and also an astro-archaeologist.  In other words, he looks at how the stars line up with ancient monuments, because although he doesn't believe in it the ancients did and so he uses star systems etc to get inside their heads.  Also, having a nun as a second main character is fascinating, and she's a believable, realistic character to boot.  Actually, she's not really a nun any more, but that's by the by.

I can thoroughly recommend this book as an intriguing and edge-of-the-seat addition to the multitudes (well, four or five at the very least) of other books using the legend of Atlantis as their basis.  Brilliant.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Sanctuary Seeker

I joined the Cambridge library yesterday.  I think I need to go back again today to take some books back.  It's quite a nice library actually, although I have yet to fully figure out their filing system...  Anyway.  I happened to spot this one in with the thrillers, and it looked pretty good so I brought it home and started reading.

The historical background feels realistic.  The characters are mostly interesting.  The plot is pretty good.  In fact, if that was all I was assessing this on, it'd be doing pretty well.  Unfortunately, the actual writing itself isn't great.  I can't quite put my finger on what's wrong, but it just doesn't quite read as smoothly or as interestingly as it might.  I think perhaps it's with the characters where the problem lies: they're great, interesting people, but the author appears to have broken the cardinal rule of 'show, don't tell'.  However, this is the first in a series (or at least, it looked like it was the first, and there were plenty more), so there's every chance that the writing will improve further on in the series.  I hope so. 

As an idea, it's brilliant.  Set in 1194, Sir John de Wolfe, retired soldier of the Crusades, is the first coroner for Devon.  But where does his jurisdiction begin and that of his brother-in-law (whom, incidentally, he can't stand) end?  So basically, a crime series set in a world without fingerprinting, DNA, cars, or any of the mod cons that detective novels today take for granted.  Going out to investigate a murder in a village takes quite some effort on horse back, especially when the village is in the middle of nowhere.  In short, it's a very interesting construct, the historical background certainly seems real enough (I confess I don't know a lot about the period, but what I do know seems to tally), and basically it'd be an excellent book if the quality of the writing were a little bit better.  So I'm hopeful for the rest of the series.

Some Observations

Being a student has led me to make some observations on life.  Most of them are probably pretty obvious for people who have ever moved away from home.

1. If I want milk, I have to buy it.  Preferably before I want it to put on breakfast cereal, because the shops aren't open when I have breakfast.

2. Dry brown bread is really not all that delicious.  I should probably get some margarine.

3. What Heinz alleges is macaroni cheese is disgusting slop which I wouldn't inflict on... well, on anything.  At all.  Ever.

4. On the other hand, Heinz raviolli is actually fairly tasty.

5. I need to get something to put on a sandwich for tomorrow, or I will have to buy a sandwich.  Buying a sandwich is more expensive than buying a whole loaf of bread and a tin of spam.  In fact, I think it's at least twice as expensive.

6. College food is okay, but the curry is spicy.  Thankfully I had a feeling it might be and avoided it.  Oh, and the onion rings are kinda weird.

7. I have to go fetch water from the kitchen.  I currently have none.  Hmm...  Dry bread makes you thirsty.  I should perhaps go get some water.  Which means finding my keys, closing the door, getting the water, coming back, unlocking hte door...

8. At some point, I will end up forgetting my keys.  Probably in the middle of the night.  Which will mean going to visit the plodge in my pyjamas.  I'm not convinced that's a great idea...

9. I am now running out of observations.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Very Surreal Walk...

Well, I think I've settled in.  I say that because I was sat in the Seeley (history faculty library, see, I now know these things, and that you don't search for the history faculty, you search for the Seeley library when you're looking for books!) and I thought 'right, time to go home'.  So I'm guessing that now I think of college as 'home', it's time to say I've settled in :).  Really enjoying life here, it's absolutely awesome.

I have a regular walk to make to get to the History Faculty over at the Sidgewick site, and it's so awesome.  First: through college, out the plodge--and that's impressive enough I would like to add, as Christ's is a pretty awesome college, then down past the market and onto King's Parade.  Through King's College, which is spectacular, then through the King's College fields, complete with cows, squirrels and ducks.  Over the bridge, where you could basically have gone back several hundred years in time, and then out of King's at the other side and across a main road.  It just feels really bizarre to be making such a switch between centuries.

I had a wonderful dinner tonight with my college family, and then we did the most awesome thing ever, although it was slightly terrifying to get up there.  We went up on the roof and we could see out over the college and the city.  What a view!  Well worth the fact that I really don't appreciate ladders.

Had six lectures so far.  Met lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of people.  Lectures have all been enjoyable, although the one earlier today on economics in Early Modern England was a little bit dull and in parts I thought the lecturer rather laboured the point.  Still, I'm loving it.  Part way through my first essay, due in on Tuesday morning (although I'll probably send it Monday night).  Nearly the end of Fresher's week (ha, it's basically Fresher's couple of days, and then lectures start and we're still doing Fresher stuff).  In some ways it's weird to think it's practically a week since I left Preston--sometimes it feels far longer, sometimes much more recent.  I'll be glad when I've settled into a proper schedule though.  I'm starting to get the hang of the whole 'I need to remember to eat, get milk, do stuff' thing, and getting to know the other people around.  Good fun, rather exciting still.

Well, I can't think of anything much else to say and I'm really pretty knackered.  Might do a little bit of writing, a little bit of reading, and go to bed.  Night all :)

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


I am now a Fresher at the University of Cambridge!  And my college is absolutely amazing.  I couldn't get on the internet on my first night, but I wrote a post anyway.  Here you go...

Had an awesome day.  Everyone's very friendly.  Met Tom and Tom who are my new next door neighbours.  Both seem really nice.  Met Kate--a NatSci (like half + of the college appears to be!), got on really well with her.  Room is massive!  Have a firendly tree which popped a branch in to say 'hi!' when I opened the window--had to push the branch out again when I wanted to close it.  Room is all set up, though still seems a little bereft of posters--didn't realise how much space I'd have to stick tehm up.  Bathroom is a fair trek, but at least it's same floor.  Kitchen is diddy and smells a bit.  Bed seems comfy enough--let you know about that tomorrow (NB: Bed is comfy, but didn't sleep on first night because of strange noises like tree tapping...).  Though the way I'm beginning to feel, I could sleep on a broken park bench!  Whole day is a whirl of names and faces.  Good to have time to reflct though--went to Evensong in the Chapel, stunningly beautiful in all respects.  And whilst it was pretty high church, I really felt that God was present with us.  The choir!  They were amazing.

Met my tutor, she was very nice, and (finally!) found some more history students.  All seem friendly, can't wait to get to know them better.  And to get started with proper college.  Place (so far) seems to revolve around drinks and biscuits, orange juice being the alternative to both hot drinks and alcoholic drinks.

Dined in formal hall (though not in formal dress tonight).  What a place!  Half way through blurted out 'I want to live here,' realised abruptly that I do!  The food was really good and all.  Fruit salad, chicken with potatoes and peas, then delicious toffee cheesecake.

Then we were all herded into hte function room.  Wow that place gets hot.  Freshers Mingle, kinda fun but I'm knackered from mingling all day.  I love my room, actually think being away from bathroom will be good in terms of noise.  Night all!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Sword-Edged Blonde

An excellent fantasy novel.  I was intrigued by the title (I'm still not entirely certain how it relates to the book), and discovered a fantastically realised world, and character within the world.  An intriguing plot, involving goddesses, the main character's uneasy past, and a brilliant mass of sub-plots.

One of the things I particularly liked was the way the swords used by the mercenary problem solver Eddie LaCrosse had brand names, like guns.  There were fantastic action scenes, intense emotional sections, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Can't wait to find the sequel.

Redeeming Love

Wow.  I read this book last night when I couldn't sleep (I'm nervous about going to uni, and no matter how much I logically know that there's no reason for me to be this nervous and there's not exactly much I can do about it, it doesn't seem to make any difference to the fact that I'm struggling to sleep), and I was seriously impressed.  I don't often read romances (ie, almost never unless I have no other choice), but I got this one for my birthday so I thought I'd better read it.  And wow.  What a story.  Powerful, moving, and intense, it's one of those books that will stick with you forever.

Set in Gold Rush California, it is, in effect, a modern retelling of the story of Hosea.  For those of you not familiar with the story: God told Hosea to marry a prostitute and love her, because He loved Israel but Israel was acting like a prostitute, running off and being besotted with other gods instead of following God.  But this story looks at the more personal consequences, for both the man, Michael Hosea, the prostitute, Angel, and others who interact with them.  Stunningly well told, with gripping and intriguing characters, from the quiet strength--and sometimes angry passion--of Michael Hosea, to the bubbly Miriam, the initially aloof and scarred Angel, and the pimps, fellow prostitutes and a whole host of excellent supporting characters.  Wow is about all I can say to sum it up.  Even if you're not much into romances or historical novels, this is well worth a read.  It's incredibly powerful, incredibly gripping, incredibly moving.  I had tears in my eyes several times over, and am really glad I was given it--I doubt I would have read it otherwise.

I can't recommend this book enough.  An excellent story from start to finish.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Red Alert

Another of the excellent UNACO series, written by Alastair MacNeill, based on the outlines for films (never filmed as far as I know) by Alastair MacLean.  If it sounds like a somewhat improbable provenance, especially as Alastair MacNeill hasn't written anything outside this series, I gotta confess I felt the same until I started reading the series.

It's excellent.  Great characters, particularly Sabrina and Mike.  And yes, this is a thriller where there's a male and female character who don't fall hopelessly in love, and Sabrina is actually pretty independent and a great character in her own right!  Amazing.  And the plot is fantastic, lots of nice twists and turns, action, excitement.  I reckon this is one of my favourites from the series.  The Red Brigades in Italy have got hold of a deadly virus in a raid on a plant.  They call it 'sleeping gas', and there's a power struggle amongst the leadership, meaning that nobody actually seems to know where the virus is--including the leaders of the Red Brigades, who decide to work alongside the police in order to get the virus back from the rogue cell.  But all is not as it seems.  Need I say more?  All the excitement and plot twists you'd expect from an Alastair MacLean, but the characters are slightly more developed in this series and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Dust to Dust

I've rather enjoyed the Stephen Dunbar thrillers up til now.  They've had interesting plots, and even if the romance element has followed exactly the same pattern throughout, they've shown good variety in terms of the main plot.  And the science has always been fascinating.  But this one, the latest (and given events in the book, presumably the last in the series) was really disappointing.  The plot revolved around a cure for AIDS, which was kinda interesting and (apparently) a viable if somewhat risky bit of science.  And also a murdered soldier.  Well, not really murdered.  But sorta murdered.  But sorta just killed accidentally.  But...  Yeh, you get the picture.  Fair enough to show that I guess, but the problem was that the mysterious 'patient x' who was getting the cure wasn't ever named, although was supposedly an important public figure.  Member of the royal family I guess, but it never actually said.  Which was annoying, because I was expecting there to be a bit of a scandal at the end.  But no.  Just a long drawn out plot, not as much excitement or interest as there usually is, a typically pathetic female character (seriously, I don't think it'd be such a problem that he has a dangerous job, I mean, let's face it, people do marry soldiers...  But Ken McClure seems under the impression that every single woman would dump his main character in the end (as in, about the end of the book, so that he can introduce a new woman and do the same romance plot again) rather than stick with him...).

Yeh, wasn't impressed.  Enjoyed the rest of the series, but this was a really feeble ending.  Sorta spoilt the rest of the series for me too.  Ah well.  Don't bother reading it.


I am packing, honest.  I've packed my books (get the most important things sorted first...), I've got some other stuff packed or dumped in the spare room to be packed, and I'm starting a packing list.  But honestly, when did it get so hard to work out what I need to take with me?  How many books?  Glasses case, must remember that.  And pyjamas, given that I have a talent for forgetting pyjamas.  Alarm clock, need one of them.  Notebooks, pens...  It feels like I'm going away for years almost--although it's only two months.  And I want to take loads of books but my mum's persuaded me not to.  Well, told me not to more like.

I'm guessing I'll take too much stuff this time and then next time I go I'll have a better idea of what I need.  I'm just worried that I'll get there and realise I need my bike (which I've decided not to take this time), or I'll have forgotten something vital, like my timetable for fresher's week or something important like that.  Hopefully I won't.  We'll just have to see I guess.  So next week, you get to find out whether I remembered everything or not (lucky you!)

I'm kinda excited, but also getting a bit nervous.  At least I know a couple of people at the church I'll be going to in Cambridge.  Well, know them vaguely.  Don't know anyone who's going to be at Cambridge with me though.  Never mind.  I might get there and discover someone I know who I didn't know was going.  Failing that, I guess I just have to make new friends.  Not like I haven't done that before, what with moving to the States and back again...  Well, I've had a lot of prayer, and I know people will be thinking of me in Cambridge, so I'll just have to trust that God shows me the right people to be friends with when I get there.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Born Again

I promised at the top of this blog that there would be music reviews.  I think you'll find one or maybe two at most.  Well, I'm doing a music review now.

The Newsboys Album Born Again features a new lead singer, Michael Tait (formerly DC Talk).  It also includes a remix of the classic 'Jesus Freak', and the album has been, in my opinion, unfairly criticised for this.  Okay, so it's perhaps not the same as the original, but actually, the words are clearer in parts on the new version.  And while I do love the original, it's never been one of my favourites.  At least part of the reason it's not been loved, I reckon, is simply because it's a bit different.  The other cover version on the album (or at least on the download from Amazon one--it doesn't seem to be on the one on itunes), is a cover of Mighty To Save.  Now this is one of my favourite songs, and I already have four other versions of it.  It's a little bizarre in that it feels like it starts in the middle, but other than that I do love this version.  It's a bit different, it's got great guitar in the background, and I particularly like the section (incidentally, it's playing right now), that goes 'My Saviour, you can move the mountains, you are mighty to save', addressing God directly rather than talking about Him in the third person.

Yes, it's not hugely similar to their previous album In the Hands of God, but I don't see why that's a bad thing.  Isn't a vibrant, changing band much more interesting than one that stays pretty static?  I don't know about you, but I like a bit of variety in the music I listen to.  Someone was saying the other day that they reckoned the band should have a new name because nobody from the original line up is there.  However, if you ever listen to some of Delirious' early stuff compared to their last album (well, last 'proper' album Kingdom of Comfort', I don't know about the Best Of album), there's a huge difference.

An excellent collection of music.  I particularly love 'Build us Back' and 'When the Boys Light Up'.  Great lyrics to all the songs, lyrics that you can sing along to without wondering 'what the heck am I singing about'.  Very glad I decided to download this album after hearing one or two songs on CrossRhythms.  Love it.  'Born Again' is also great, and I sincerely hope they come to this country on tour and I can see them live.  The album has real 'live show' potential in my humble opinion (and I've not exactly been to many live shows...  In fact, I've been to one--saw Delirious on the Kingdom of Comfort tour).  Even if you're not enamoured with the two cover versions, the rest of the album is excellent, leaving you with 10 brilliant songs if you decide to delete the covers.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Age of Zeus

An interesting concept for certain.  The gods have moved down to earth, to sort out human behaviour for us because we can't seem to stop fighting with ourselves.  Trouble is, these gods are a mite too powerful, and who watches the watchers?  Well, maybe the Titans.  Made powerful by incredible suits of armour, the titans are the only people who have a hope of taking on the new Greek Gods.

Although it was interesting, and mostly well written, I didn't quite finish it.  It got a little bit tedious and felt somewhat drawn out, and the interest of finding out whether or not one of my favourite characters survived gradually waned.  So I gave it up and took it back to the library.

There was an intersting twist in where the gods came from, yes, but it seemed to be somewhat laboured.  In fact, the whole thing seemed to be drawn out far more than necessary.  So although it could have been quite enjoyable, and a pretty powerful comment on genetics etc, it became a little tedious and started to feel more like a project to wade through than an interesting fiction read.  If you've more patience than I have with slower paced novels then you'll probably enjoy it--like I said, it was an interesting concept.  It just wasn't written in a particularly exciting manner.


Pretty average sci-fi really.  Well, maybe better than average actually.  I enjoyed it.  The one thing that did niggle at me was after Bandie gave the new alien characters names that were pronounceable, the author subsequently used the 'proper' name so although Deeeeeeeaaaaabbb (or some other number of ees, aas and bbs might have been used) was called Deep in dialogue with Bandie, it was spelt out fully all the rest of the time.  Which was kinda annoying.  And I wasn't entirely convinced by the use of little *s before sun names.  Didn't seem necessary.  Plus there was an additional plot on Saturn (or a moon of Saturn, it wasn't all that clear), involving Bandie's ex-girlfriend, which seemed kinda unnecessary.  There was more than enough plot for the novel with the main plot involving a mysterious alien technology that was steadily murdering stars for purposes (initially) unknown.

The translater stones were pretty interesting, particularly as they were, in effect, an intelligent life form that took the form of a pair of stones embedded in all the main characters.  Maybe a bit similar to the bable fish in Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, although I don't think they ever couldn't translate anything, got infected, or had personalities.  I've not read the whole series though.  Anyway, this was a book four, so it's fair to assume that a bit of character development at least will have taken place in previous books rather than this one.  As a result, the only characters who seemed more than two dimensional or plot enablers were Bandie, the female alien who he was in love with (and whose name escapes me--surely there's a case for writing a sci-fi with names that are actually memorable!), and the robots were reasonably well developed.  But there were another two members to the 'team', and they seemed more there to fill up numbers than because they were all that interesting as characters.

However, it was a good story, and there was a reasonable amount of action.  The plot was also (apart from the slightly dodgy subplot on earth, which might have made more of an impact if I'd read the first three?) pretty good.  So I enjoyed it and I'll keep an eye out for the others, but I won't be rushing out to buy it.

Changeling: Dark Moon

Not overly memorable in terms of plot--I was half way through before I was definitely sure I hadn't read this one before--but still pretty interesting.  Basically, it was a good book while I was reading it, but now it's finished I'm not sure I could tell you with any degree of certainty what went on in that one as opposed to in the other Changeling books.

Basically a teenage werewolf/vampire/sorcerer story.  Not a romance, although there's a half hearted romance plot (half hearted in that it's got the potential to turn up but neither character is pushing it at the moment, not in that it's no good).  An interesting bit of action, some teenagey angsty issues (is that the right way of putting it?).  I mean, being a teenager isn't all that easy, but being a teenager who could potentially turn into a humongous werewolf that everyone's terrified of when you get a bit mad or on the night of the full moon has gotta make things more difficult.

Well, it was enjoyable enough to read.  Not the best thing ever, and I actually think the first one in the series has a bit more of an interesting plot, but it's not bad.  I've read worse.

Hmm, having fun with the new buttons

Hello.  I am now going to try out every single one of the new buttons on the Compose side of the new blogger.  Or at least, some of them.

I like love Crossrhythms.  The link is:  Ooh, that was exciting. I got to test the link out.  There are also lots of colours, more than I expected.  And the flashy bit changes colour depending on which colour I've decided to use.  Now, what happens if I do this...  Hmm, that.  I don't have any pictures or videos I feel like inserting. 

Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunters

Well, if you're looking for a comprehensive book on the u-boat war in all theatres during WWII, this is it. If you're looking for a humongous doorstopper to hold up your desk, it'll serve that purpose too. I got about half way through before the detail threatened to make my head explode and I started to lose the thread of the overall campaign. I was also slightly disappointed because my history teacher used a quote from Clay Blair that implied he thought the u-boat war was never particularly dangerous, but although you do get the impression it could've been a lot worse, what happened seems bad enough to me.

An exhaustive (and exhausting to read) catalogue of every u-boat action, and every attempted u-boat action, along with great technical detail about the u-boats themselves and the convoy system and the commanders and...  Yeh, you get the picture.  I suspect it's the biggest book I've ever seen, except maybe the Bible (which, admittedly, I have read all the way through twice over now, including once in 90 days which was pretty fun), and this was only part one.

I don't think it was meant to be read all the way through.  In fact, although it starts off feeling pretty readable, the sheer quantity of information and detail just makes it impossible to read right through.  As a reference, I suspect it's incomparable, with a heck of a lot of detailed research work going in to work out exactly which sub sunk which ship and when torpedoes malfunctioned and which ship was doing weather reports when.  So if you fancy having a reference to every u-boat operation during WWII, and a nice and to be fair rather interesting, chunk at the beginning about the development of the u-boat arm and the specifications of the ship, this is the book to get.

One other thing I will mention that struck me was the sheer number of times the German torpedoes malfunctioned.  Although the Battle of the Atlantic initially went rather disastrously for Britain, the number of ships saved by the torpedoes failing to detonate, or because the magnetic torpedoes which would 'kill' a ship with one torpedo rather than the contact pistols which usually needed two or three torpedoes per ship were utterly useless is quite astounding.  In the end, the Germans resorted to copying British torpedoes which kept depth far better.  So we were better with them at some things...

An interesting book then, if you've got a lot of time to read it or if you want to use it as a reference.

The Galleon's Grave

This is the third Martin Stephen book (it's starting to look like I'm gonna read the series backwards, but never mind, it still makes sense). Oh, never mind. I've just had a look at the bibliography on Fantastic Fiction (great resource if you've never looked it up before) and it appears that they've not been published in chronological order anyway. That discussion aside, this is a fantastic book. Erroneously marked 'Historical Romance' by the library, there is a romantic plot in there but only as a sub plot. There's plenty of action though, more than enough to satsify. And twists and turns worty of an Alaistar MacLean novel too! Highly enjoyable, particularly in terms of the historical context. Martin Sephens really captures the feel of the era (or at least, he does it convincingly enough that if I read any books suggesting that the Elizabethan period felt any different I'd find myself seriously doubting the credibility of the latter). I loved it, can't wait to find the rest of the series. And regardless of whether I'll actaully manage to fit them anywhere, I think I might have to start hunting down my own copies. I'm going to uni soon, so that should relieve my bookcases on the basis that some of my books will have to come to Cambridge with me so the rest can have a little more space.

Henry Gresham is a believable and interesting character, and there's a bit more of his personal life showing through in this one than was evidenced in Rebel Heart. A spy for Queen Elizabeth, he finds himself caught up in a multi-layered intrigue, which leads to him sailing to England... with the Spanish Armada! Gripping and fascinating, this is a real page-turner, a read in one go sort of novel. Tense and exciting, well written and plausible. What more can you ask for in a novel?

The Hunt for Atlantis

I'm sure I must have reviewed this before. It must be the third or fourth time I've read it, if not the fifth or sixth. There's an awful lot of books on discovering Atlantis, and I've read quite a few of them, but this one remains my favourite. An excellent fast paced thriller, with enough historical context to add interest but not so much you get drowned in hypotheticals and start feeling like you're reading a text book. The characters are engaging, particularly Eddie Chase and Nina Wilde, and the plot is, if somewhat grand in scale, at least plausible. And the action is great. And there's a lot of it. Exploding helicopters, jumbo jets, corrupt soldiers, exploding trains... Yeh, you get the picture. Lots of bad guys, lots of action and excitement, a great escapist read. One of my favourite books (although I think the most recent one in the same series is perhaps even more my favourite...).

So if you're looking for a fast paced, gripping thriller, you need look no further. And the best part is, it's the start of a series that just gets better and better, and has yet to fail to deliver an interesting historical mystery combined with plenty of action. I can't wait for the newest one to come out :)

Dead Lock

The library had labelled it with a gun on the side. It wasn't a label I'd seen before, so I picked it up in an attempt to see what the gun sticker meant. Yes, that's how I've resorted to picking books--look at the stickers the library's put on and trust that they've done it accurately (which they haven't always... I read a thriller with a historical romance sticker, although I suppose there was a tiny bit of historical romance involved). Anyway. I presume the gun sticker means a thriller and they run out of the man running in cross hairs ones.

It's actually a similar idea to the Cherub book Maximum Security. I don't know that there's any actual link there though...

Basically, a leader from the Aryan Brotherhood has agreed to testify against fellow members with regard to the brutal murder of an undercover agent. The catch: he wants releasing into the general prison population, despite the fact that the Aryan Brotherhood will know he's a snitch, and go after him. So he has to be kept alive for a week, until he can testify. Enter Ryan Lock, an ex-military bodyguard, and close friend of the murdered undercover agent. Trouble is, keeping Reaper alive becomes the least of his worries, because Reaper has plans of his own. And they don't involve staying in the general prison population for long. In fact, they involve something more like the end of America...

An gripping read with plenty of twists and action. As good as the cover makes it look. I'll have to keep an eye out for the others (well, other--I've read the second, according to fantastic fiction there's one before it and one due to be released in 2011).

Monday, 20 September 2010

Rebel Heart

I'm not entirely sure why I picked this book and decided to read it. There was a spy on the spine, I was getting pretty desparate to find a book--any book--to read because I've read all the ones I could find from authors I've previously enjoyed, I read the blurb and it didn't put me off completely. So I got it out the library, despite the fact I don't generally read historical fiction, and I've never thought of reading anything about Elizabethan England. Well, I was quite surprised to discover both how much I enjoyed it and how interesting the background was.

The Court was well created, the historical background seemed plausible (I can't say more than that, because to be quite frank I know absolutely nothing about it), and it was well-evoked. There were twists and turns worthy of a great spy novel, action worthy of a great thriller, and a little sprinkling of romance that added to the plot rather than being thrown in just because. In short, it was a great novel. Couldn't put it down (which meant reading til early in the morning... again), and instantly set out to find the rest of the series. Unfortunately, this was the fourth and there don't seem to be more planned--although just because there's not a new one shown on Fantastic Fiction doesn't mean there isn't another planned. However, that does mean another three books to find and enjoy. Shame there's not more, but I guess you can't have everything.

An enjoyable and gripping read, that catapulted you back to the Elizabethan court, mapping intrigues and plots, along with a good sprinkling of action.

24 Declassified: Veto Power

Okay, so books based on TV series aren't always that great, but so far all the 24 Declassified books I've read have been gripping thrillers with plenty of action. I do wonder though, whether this might be one of the cases where the TV series is better than the books... Usually I'm a huge fan of books, even if they didn't come first (provided they're well written). However, I think something is lost from the fact that on the TV series it's one show per hour, whereas in the book it's one chapter per hour and, quite frankly, I reckon you can fit more into one hour of TV than one chapter of book. But having never actually seen the TV series, I'm not in the best position to judge that.

It's well written, it's got plenty of action. The characters are reasonably well developed, although with the exception of Jack Bauer, not brilliantly so. I certainly enjoyed reading it, and I'm keeping my eye out for the others (although they all seem to have been done by different authors so it's not all that easy to find them in the library). I think there's a case here for putting books from the same series but by different authors together.

An enjoyable thriller. Plenty of action, a pretty decent plot, and... plenty of action.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Fool's Errand

I was something of a fool for starting to read this book in the evening. In fact, very much a fool. Despite the fact that I've read it once before, I was still compelled to read it all the way through in one go. Which with a book that comes in at 660 pages is quite a lot of book to read all in one go. Worth being knackered in the morning though.

Fitz, now calling himself Tom Badgerlock, reckons he's earned his retirement, even if he does miss some of those at the court. But he's got Nighteyes, his faithful wolf and Wit partner, he's got Hap, an orphan who he took on, and he's got Starling when she flits into his life to share his bed. Until Chade comes to visit, his old mentor, the man who does the quiet work for the throne. And then, shortly after Chade, the Fool. Times are changing, the Fool needs his Catalyst back. The prince has gone missing.

Which means that Fitz is launched once again into adventure and intrigue, with a gripping plot, fascinating characters, and a briliantly imagined and evoked world. I'm not entirely sure how best to describe this book, other than to say that by my reckoning Robin Hobb is the best fantasy author I've ever read.

Read it. Just don't start reading it in the evening or when you haven't much time. It's one of those books you can't put down no matter how smart it would be and how much you're yawning at half two in the morning...

Bloody Passage

There's nothing particularly special about this book. By Jack Higgins, it seems to draw rather heavily on other works of his (or they draw on this). The main character is roughly the same as Sean Dillon or Martin Fallon, although ex-Special Forces rather than ex-IRA. Blind sister pops up, remarkably similar to a character in Prayer for the Dying. As is the hard man that goes along to keep Major Oliver Grant in line. Bit of a twist in the ending, although not entirely unexpected. Oh, and of course, a pretty girl who betrays him but doesn't really want to. In fact, the more I think about it, the more Bloody Passage and Prayer for the Dying are alike... And I think Prayer for the Dying has the edge--there's a lot more passion in it. Or maybe I just think it's better because I read it first so the ideas were newer. Given that I keep re-reading it though...

However, there are some very good action scenes that leave you breathless, which is something that Jack Higgins rarely disappoints on. In fact, I can't think of a single book where I've been disappointed with the quality of the action. Just occaisionally find that the plots have been somewhat recycled and regurgitated.

Still, for all that, it's not a bad book, it's an enjoyable read if not spectacular, and a great one for reading when you can't sleep. Well, maybe not so great because I couldn't put it down, but it's not too long so that didn't really matter, unlike some books that you can't put down...

I, Alex Cross

Well, I'm perhaps not in the best position to judge this book as I didn't actually read all of it. In fact, I got to about chapter 12 (which if you've ever read a James Patterson book, means I really didn't get that far) before I gave up on it and decided that I could find better things to read. I used to be a huge James Patterson fan, but his writing's getting worse. Or maybe that's just me.

I didn't enjoy the previous Alex Cross book at all. I made it all the way through, but had serious reservations about the way the 'natives' had been treated--you rather get the impression the author has never been to Africa. Which made the whole plot fall rather flat, and to be perfectly honest, the plot itself appeared to have been contrived primarily to send Alex Cross to Africa--presumably so the author could explore 'deep issues' (like he did with Maximum Ride four which utterly ruined the book).

This one had a somewhat interesting start. Woman running away, shot in the back. Staggers to a road, gets picked up after being nearly run over. It was the man from the White House. Which man? The President? Why? Well, when it turns out that this woman who was killed is a) Alex Cross' niece (who incidentally, was somewhat estranged and he hasn't seen her for 20 odd years... so let's face it may as well be anyone) and b) a prostitute. And that latter fact was what decided me that I didn't want to keep reading. Don't get me wrong, I don't have an issue with reading books which touch on the darker side of life. I've just thoroughly enjoyed one in Ex-Kop. But James Patterson has a thing for writing... Well, I'll call it dodgy stuff, and leave it at that. As for the scandal, well, I was left thinking, so what? Killer above the law; read it quite a few times now.

So to be quite honest, the new Alex Cross book didn't interest me at all. I picked it up from the library because some of them have been very good, but when it all seemed a bit dull, contrived, and not really all that well-written, I gave up and it's going back to the library tomorrow. I've still not read the most recent Maximum Ride book either. To be fair, Max was reasonable, even if not up to the standards of the first three. I've just lost interest in James Patterson's writing because so much of it has been utter rubbish recently. Especially the Women's Murder Club, which was a series I thoroughly enjoyed.


I've been reading quite a bit recently, so I'm way behind with reviewing stuff. However, I've just finished reading this book, so I figure I'll just get on and review it now.

A lot better than I anticipated. I was expecting a mediocre sci-fi, just picked it up at the library because the sci-fi section is somewhat limitted. Instead of finding, well, basically a 'trashy' sci-fi with plenty of action and not much plot, I discovered a gritty, intense novel that I couldn't put down, with flawed, all-too-human characters. The sci-fi element was more a background, an enabler for the plot, than what you might call 'true' sci-fi. Yeh, it was set on another planet, in the future, with high tech holograms and all that sort of stuff. But that wasn't the heart of the book, and the heart of the book was a gripping central character, an ex police officer, corrupt as they come, finger in every pie to control the crime on his planet. Well, in his city, even if the drug lords have taken over the areas outside the city. It perhaps belonged more in the crime section, where I could thoroughly recommend it as a great read, a crime novel set in an impoverished country. Instead, it took the guise of sci-fi and certainly surprised me when I realised this was no run of the mill space battle story.

My only disappointment is that it's a sequel and I haven't read the first. It is generally better to read books in the right order... However, the Harris being what it is, you can rarely if ever find the first book in a series.

If you're a crime fan who's bored of standard detective novels, this is certainly worth checking out. The nearest author I can think of would be Nick Stone, also with a flawed cop, not above twisting the law, as the central character. Or perhaps the novel Bait, can't remember who it was by. Thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Battle of Britain

Well worth reading. Oh, just to clarify, this is the one that's just come out by James Holland. Not perfect, perhaps, but incredibly wide-ranging. To be honest, calling it a book on the Battle of Britain is a bit of a misnomer. It starts with the invasion of France and the Low Countries, it ends in October with the beginning of the Blitz. It doesn't just cover the air-fighting, but instead the war at sea, the war in France, the politics, the attempts to draw in America, the beginning of Lend-Lease, and, of course, the dog-fighting over England. Also gives brief mention to E-boats and the British bombing campaign. In short, a wide-ranging book, which perhaps isn't as detailed on the air-fighting as some books I've read but that's hardly to be expected when it covers such a vast swathe of the conflict. Oh, and covers the invasion planning, the Home Guard, Churchill's consolidation of power, supply and maintenance, and a myriad of related topics, also including the morale of pilots.

It's not overburdened with statistics and diagrams, it's not full of complex explanations of exactly how each aircraft works, and it's not narrowly focussed, although at the end it does seem to drop the story of the E-boats and doesn't give as much detail to the Battle of the Atlantic as perhaps it could, focussing instead on the air fighting. Uses a lot of first hand accounts, and well written enough that I quite happily sat in a library and read it for well over two hours without moving (other than to turn the pages). It is a big book, and I found the section on the Fall of France very interesting as it's not something that's all that easy to find books on.

On the other hand, I didn't agree with some of the analysis of why Britain won. Well, more specifically, I don't agree that the Me-109 (oh, and I've finally found out why it's alternately the Me or the Bf, it actually depends on when the aircraft was produced as the factory was initially called Bayerische Flugzeugwerke and later the name was changed to that of the chief designer, becoming Messerschmitt) was better than the Spitfire. It was interesting that apparently British pilots were more wary of pushing the Spitfire to the edge than the German pilots were of pushing the Me-109, but surely it's better to have an aircraft that can be flown well by everyone rather than an aircraft that can be flown reasonably by most and excellently by a few. The trouble is, while the Messerschmitt was faster and had a better rate of climb, it didn't have as good a turning circle. And in a dogfight, a turning circle was needed, and because of the way the fighters were being used as escorts for the bombers, dogfights were inevitable. Ideally, the Me-109 should have been flown in from the sun, drop down on an unsuspecting Spitfire or Hurricane, shoot it down, climb out the way and scoot off. But radar could be used to estimate heights and as the battle progressed they could be estimated quite accurately by increasingly experienced operators, the Germans did not then have the element of surprise that they had in France. So because of the way the aircraft were being used, the Spitfire was probably the better fighter.

That out the way, I was pleased to see that Holland didn't just say that because the numbers of fighter aircraft were equal that made it much easier for the British than previously assumed. Ah, not quite. Cos they did still have to shoot the bombers down, couldn't just let them meander off over England. It was the bombers that they had to focus on, truth be told, because it was the bombers that could do the damage. The fighters could only damage other fighters; if it was just fighter sweeps coming over England there'd be little point in meeting them.

The E-boat sections were fascinating, I would've liked to see a bit more made of that side of the story. However, I suspect that space was getting limited (as in, 600 pages full of words already and maybe not so great to put that many more pages in). And the politics was well told too, on both the British and German sides and in terms of relations between Britain and America. I think the point could have been made that although Beaverbrook did kick British aircraft production up the bum so to speak, he did so at the cost of various longer term projects, including four-engine bombers, and that there's no way he can be totally responsible for results coming in by the end of the week in which he was appointed. Further, what he did was a short term solution--people can't work the hours he was insisting on long term, not without burning out and starting to make mistakes.

In short, this was a thoroughly enjoyable book and I'm sure it will become a recommended read for anyone studying WWII. It wasn't quite as balanced as it could have been between the different aspects of the campaign--there was little on the British bomber campaign although to be fair it did get a mention which is unusual. And it is, as far as I'm aware, the first time the 'story's' been told like this, in such a wide-ranging interpretation of the Battle of Britain.

Definitely recommend it, might actually buy a copy when it comes out in paperback (borrowed it out the library--hardback history books are pretty expensive to buy loads without any real idea of whether they'll be all that great). So if you see one floating around at the library (although if the queue's anything like it was at mine to get hold of it, as in, about seven more people waiting after me and I thought I'd had to wait a long time for it you might not see it for a while), it's definitely worth taking the time to read it.

The Battle of the Atlantic

How many books have I read with this title now?! This is the one by Marc Milner. And it's pretty reasonable, although I wasn't as impressed as I thought I'd be from reading the blurb. I thought it was going to say much more exciting things, but for the most part it just followed pretty standard lines. Was well written, did make some interesting points though, I'm inclined to recommend this as a good book to read on the Atlantic Campaign as it did cover the whole thing, and there was a good sense of perspective in terms of the air support and the shore based institutions, along with the politics that influenced the battle and the actual convoy battles. Made a very good point at the beginning that yeh, Germany's u-boat arm was dangerous and yeh, Britian didn't have much in the way of ships to fight it, but ships to fight u-boats were much easier to produce in war time under crash programmes than battleships and carriers, which were needed to effectively counter the German surface fleet--which was Raeder's priority before the war.

What else? Well, for a book that according to the blurb was gonna show that Enigma wasn't such a war winner as other things, it sure gave a lot of credit to Enigma and the ability to re-route convoys initially to avoid wolf packs and then to find them so that the u-boats could be fought and destroyed once effective means of fighting them had been found. Did go into the aircraft side of things, which seemed to be, at least according to this guy, the main reason the Battle was won, as it removed the u-boats ability to stay on the surface and re-charge batteries. In turn, that was only effective once decent radar was found to fit to the aircraft so that they could actually find the u-boats. Interesting, if not particularly new, documentation of all stages of the battle. Well written.

I guess the main reason I was a little disappointed in this book was because I've already read a fair bit on the Battle of the Atlantic and the blurb led me to think it was gonna be quite revisionist with a totally different take on things to usual. That wasn't really the case, but it was a pretty decent book.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Hilariously brilliant. The only way of describing it would be slightly off beat. Nothing, it seems, is what you would quite expect. And every time you think you've got a handle on the wildly engrossing plot, something shows up that screws up all pre-conceived ideas of what exactly is going on.

Marvin the paranoid android returns, miserable as ever. Talking psychic lifts, stupid sentient tanks, the Total Perspective Vortex, the somewhat ridiculous Beeblebrox who's President of the universe and currently on the run after stealing a ship he was meant to launch... And how could I forget? The Restaurant at the End of the Universe itself, an intriguing idea for the ultimate dining experience, that costs only a penny because you put it in a bank account and leave it and the interest allows you to pay for the meal. Whilst the universe ends outside. Sheer brilliance. I'm not entirely sure how you review a book with a plot that, quite frankly, can't be described without writing an essay. Makes it clear why The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy series is a classic. And one that, unlike Jane Eyre, is still a brilliantly enjoyable classic today. And retains its originality. I wonder if you can still get the radio series on tape... Or CD I guess. Either would work (actually, maybe CD would be better as my tape/CD/radio has gone kaput so I don't have anything to play a tape on).

Read it.

Monday, 30 August 2010


Watch out Cambridge, here I come! I can't believe how behind I've got with this blog... I got my results the Thursday before last. 3 A*s (History, Maths, English Lit), A in General Studies and AS Ancient History. I got 118/120 in my final exam for History! I never imagined I'd do that well, I figured I'd be able to get the A* I needed for Cambridge in Maths, but never seriously thought I'd be able to get A* in all three of my main subjects. So chuffed :). And got home from getting my results and found two letters, one from Christ's College, one from UCAS. Naturally I opened the one from Christ's College first, they told me they were giving me a place, said congratulations, then there was an epic reading list (two and a half pages, although it did say I'm not expected to read them all) and a thing to say I need to pick what modules I want to do. Well, the modules I've chosen are: British Political and Constitutional History 1450-1750, British Social and Economic History 1500-1750, Utopian Writing 1516-1789, European History since 1890, Expansion of Europe from the Fifteenth Century to the First World War, and The West and the 'Third World' from the First World War to the present day. Can't wait!


I've just realised that I never typed this up. I went to Sunderland International Air Show on July 25th and wrote a 'blog' post immediately afterwards in my notebook. So, here it is:

Where can I possibly start? Okay: my favorites were: Breitling display team (a pair of biplanes, doing aerobatics around each other, whilst an acrobatic wing walker did a routine of handstands etc in a special harness on the top wing), the Harrier (gotta be the most awesome aircraft ever invented. It bowed!!! And hovered and then slid slowly sideways off the 'stage' area, which was incredibly spectacular to watch, I thought it was gonna fall out the sky), and of course, the Red Arrows. Wow! The Victory Roll formation was incredible, the aircraft got into a formation to look like a Spitfire, and then the whole formation rolled together, and then the spectacular breaks with coloured smoke and they looked at times like they were going to hit each other. Also, the Typhoon was fantastic. Rocket impersonater or what! And its agility too, it was incredible. The Spitfires were also fantastic to see (although I'm not entirely sure which was which mark, it was a bit too noisy to hear the commentator properly). The Dakota was also impressive--especially as the version I've built has the exact same markings. Was also rather impressed by the 8 engined bomber, and the warship sat out on the edge which launched its Merlin. Speaking of helicopters, the Black Cat display helicopter was absolutely stunning in its agility. If teh Harrier was flown like a helicopter, this Lynx was flown practically like a jet, swooping and twizzling all over hte place. The Avro Tutor displayed absolutely stunning acrobatics, particularly the stall turns. The F16 from the Netherlands as ace too. Oh! The pair of aircraft that opened. Very impressive. And a live demonstration (complete with some poor soul chucked in the water) of air sea rescue. Can you tell I was impressed? I would've liked to have seen a few WWI era aircraft (or at least, replicas of WWI era aircraft) and a Lancaster would've been nice. But I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed my first ever air show. And oh! How could I forget? The Falcons parachute display team was very impressive indeed, though it was a shame I couldn't actually see the beach where they landed.

Toy Story 3

Well, it does certainly look like there are two must-see films this summer. I have to be honest, I thought Inception was the better film purely because of its originality. That said, Toy Story 3 is hilariously brilliant and brings the Toy Story trilogy to a great conclusion. With some of the original characters missing (including Bo Peep, and the soldiers who go AWOL at the very beginning of the story), it leaves room for new characters to be developed. Including the hilarious Ken. And it allows other characters to be developed too, particularly Barbie and Buzz and Woody.

I was told it'd make me cry, but have to confess the only reason I had tears in my eyes was from laughing so much. And everyone in the cinema was laughing too.

Great Escape style action escaping from Sunnyside, one rather terrifying scene set in a rubbish dump, and a very satisfying ending, the film holds your attention throughout. My only real criticism is that it was pointless seeing it in 3D. Very little of the action came out the screen. In fact, there was more 3D from the trailers shown before than from the film itself, so to be perfectly honest, you're better off saving your money and watching it in 2D.

In short: a funny and enjoyable film.

Sunday, 15 August 2010


The best film I have ever seen. Yes, I mean it. I've seen some excellent films and this doesn't detract from them, but Inception truly is the best film I have ever seen. It's original, it's engrossing, it makes you think rather than simply giving you a ride along on a feel good movie, the acting is superb. But it's the idea behind it all, the brilliant, fascinating, well thought through idea that permeates the film that makes this better than any other film I have ever watched and enjoyed. And I've enjoyed a fair few films.

'I specialise in a very special type of security. Sub conscious security'. The concept is simple. Put someone into a shared dream, they'll fill it with their secrets, you can get in and steal them. Cobb's been doing this for a living after being forced to leave his children. But now he's been given a new challenge. And if he succeeds, it's a way back home. The concept is simple. Instead of stealing an idea, he has to plant one. Carrying it out is another matter altogether. But not only is the concept interesting in itself, it's also been given detail, life, and plausibility. Architects to build dream worlds, paradoxes such as never-ending staircases to keep the subject within the boundaries of the dream you want them in, dream time that gives you longer for each real minute the deeper into a dream you go. Unstable dreams, rampant subconscious characters determined to wipe out invaders...

Not only that, but an engrossing and intriguing cast of characters, particularly Cobb and his wife Mal. A romantic element that doesn't follow your typical guy meets girl and falls madly in love but this is rather awkward because he's meant to be saving the world/doing a job/in love with someone else or whatever. And an ending that leaves you begging for more and desperate to watch it all over again.

For those of you who've watched it: I reckon dream. Those of you that haven't: watch it and find out what I mean. It truly is the best film I have ever watched.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Mask of Troy

I got really excited when I saw that David Gibbins had released another book. Quite frankly, I was disappointed. There was little action, and while the discoveries were interesting enough, without the excitement of a race to find it first, or a determined bunch of artefact thieves to fend off, the book just wasn't that great. If I wanted to read something just about finding archaeological treasures, I'd much rather read something factual. That said, Jack Howard remains an interesting character, even if there aren't really any particularly new revelations about him, like there have been in past books. It did pick up towards the end, with some kidnapping and action, but not as much as in previous books. I'm glad I finished it, and it most definitely did (eventually) get better, but to be perfectly honest I wouldn't bother starting it in the first place. It was a disappointment compared to the excellent previous books, and had it not been by David Gibbins I probably would have given up long before the end.

I'm glad I didn't rush out and buy it like I nearly did, but I can't help but feel the series would've been better if it had finished at book four rather than have this addendum. However, if there are more books, on the basis that the first four were truly excellent (especially Atlantis and Crusader Gold) I'll probably still get them out the library, even if I won't be rereading this one. I recommend you read the others, I don't recommend you bother with this one. The interesting bit at the end doesn't outweigh the fact that it takes an awful long time to get even vaguely exciting.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Map of Bones

I've practically read this series backwards, or at least, in no recognisable order. However, it has not detracted from the fact that the Sigma Force series is truly excellent.

Ever heard of m state gold? Me neither, but apparently it's possible to create a fine powder from gold, by doing stuff to it that makes every atom split from every other atom and sit on its own. This gold has incredible properties, and unfortunately, they can be used for incredibly deadly purposes. An intriguing thriller, based on real science, well explained and utterly gripping. The characters are great, from Commander Gray Pierce, through Seichan, Monk, Kat, Rachel, and a whole host of other characters. I think Pierce is probably my favourite, but Monk has to come a close second. The novel delivers an excellent mix of ancient (and more recent) history, fascinating recent scientific developments, and action.

A massacre in a church and the theft of the bones of the Magi who visited Jesus at his birth launches the novel, and the action doesn't let up til the end. Nor does the plot wear thin. Highly enjoyable, although you'll probably get more out of the series if you read it in order, simply because everyone doesn't always make it(!)

On a slight aside, James Rollins also writes fantasy novels under the name James Clemens. I've just managed to get hold of one for the first time. Shall let you know how that goes :).

Friday, 9 July 2010


Well, I managed up to part way through the first chapter. Which is more than it sounds like, because the prologue was ridiculously long and involved. I'm sure the same amount of background information could've been given in a much shorter period and with a bit more drama. And it seemed excessive to draw on what, four or five separate historical periods to chart the continuation of a secret society. Surely that sort of stuff could've been left to be discovered further on into the book. Instead, it seemed more like the author wanted to get all the historical stuff out the way before getting onto the 'real' story. Hmm. Then the first chapter started with more disparate accounts of various natural disasters, making the whole beginning feel rather fragmented. Getting close to fifty pages in, we finally meet what I assume from the blurb is to be the main characters, lying on a boat and drunk. By this point, I was pretty well fed up, and gave up just as they were about to go and confront some possible archaeological pirate type people with a single gun between the two main characters. Or something of the sort. Perhaps it picked up after that. But I was rather fed up by that point and took it back to the library. Maybe I shouldn't have done, maybe the story would have improved and got rather exciting, but to be quite frank, if a book hasn't grabbed my interest by the time I'm fifty odd pages in, I'm about ready to give up on it if it's not an author I've read before, no matter how good the blurb sounded.

So unless you fancy skipping the prologue (which is a pretty major piece of writing in itself, rather defying what I thought was the general consensus that a prologue will be fairly short), and it does pick up, I wouldn't bother. However, if you did get further, please correct me and I'll get it back out the library. Like I said, it did have the potential to be quite interesting, but I just got rather fed up.

Exit Wound

As promised, pretty much right after reading it. Okay, so maybe I didn't do quite so well with other books I've read recently, but it's a case of getting into a habit of blogging after reading.

Anyway, Exit Wound is brilliant. Fast paced action, featuring Nick Stone. It's the most recent thriller from Andy McNab, and it's well worth the read. I seem to have skipped out Brute Force, shall have to find that in the library. At the moment, I really cannot buy any more books. I have absolutely no space on any bookcase to fit them in, except slotted on top but that doesn't look very neat. I ramble. Nick Stone is a believable first person narrator, intriguing, not so shallow it may as well be third person, not so deep that you end up giving up because you can't understand the main character. Blunt, determined, authentic, Nick Stone narrates a gripping tale of espionage, dodgy dealings and revenge. The series just gets better and better. Unlike some thrillers you're not swamped with technology, terminology and acronyms. Instead, this highly readable book gives the bare bones of technical detail without being patronising, and allows the action and the plot to take centre stage. Up to date issues, realistic coverage of the war on terror, I guess this is what it felt like to read one of the 'classics' of the spy thriller genre when it first came out. Highly recommend it.

The Baa Baa Black Sheep Test

Ever wondered how jets are tested to be sure they'll stand up to stress? No, I can't say I have either. But apparently, the test is done by broadcasting baa baa black sheep and other nursery rhymes at high volume in a special test chamber. Why? Because one day, a technician got bored. It was originally done simply using a number of different frequencies, but after testing the aircraft fully, the technician decided to hook a microphone into the system. Testing testing worked just fine, but singing baa baa black sheep caused the wheel to fall off the jet. So now (according to my dad anyway, but he assures me that the person who told him this wasn't pulling his leg), the US military sings nursery rhymes to their jets to make sure they won't drop apart.

It's possible to make a computer crash... by rattling a plastic bag with coins in it over the keyboard.

On a Sunday afternoon, a bunch of air traffic controllers in Scotland managed to put their machine out of order for several months. They were having a competition to see who could push the most buttons at once.

Can you tell my dad's an engineer?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Hunting Party

Fox hunting and sci fi? Well, Elizabeth Moon brings it off brilliantly, to the extent that you wonder why you never thought of that combination before. In a word: fascinating.

Heris Serrano was forced to resign from the military. Now she has found herself new employment, as the captain of a space yacht for an eccentric elderly lady. The problem? The previous captain was incompetent, and up to something distinctly dodgy. He was not fired because of that, but instead because he took far too long to travel between planets, meaning Lady Cecelia de Marktos has to take her nephew and a handful of friends away on her yacht now they're persona non grata on the planet they had been living on. Forced to adjust to life away from the military, Serrano is determined to sharpen up the crew on the yacht, and then discovers that all is not as it seems on the apparently luxurious yacht. The interior decorator might have done a good job (at least in the eyes of some people...) but the yacht's vital systems are distinctly under-maintained. An amusing and fascinating book, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and will definitely be keeping an eye out for the rest of the series.

Highly recommended.

A Traitor to Memory

Disappointing. I didn't finish it, I couldn't be bothered to plow through and was quite annoyed that I'd wasted so much time to get half way through when it became clear that the plot was being stretched way beyond reasonable limits. I admit, I don't often read crime books any more, but on the basis of the other Elizabeth George books I've read, and the Inspector Lynley TV series, I figured this was worth a go. Especially because my mum reckoned the TV episode that followed the plot of this book was one of the best.

To be quite honest, the plot could have been quite fantastic. In fact, much of the book was fantastic. The problem was with the fact that the book had been seriously bulked out by the inclusion of the ramblings of a prodigy violinist who had lost his memory and possibly had something to do with the violent hit and run that killed his mother--a mother he had not seen since he went on tour aged 8 with his father and returned to find the house wiped clean of both her presence and that of his murdered little sister. Fair enough to include some from the perspective of the possible killer, but really, over half the chapters filled with his ramblings? It just got tedious and boring, and detracted from what could have been a fantastic plot, and quite an original and intriguing one too. Instead, the book dragged. It was almost as though Elizabeth George had two ideas and decided to just combine them into one book, but ended up giving neither the attention or interest value they deserved.

In short, a disappointing book that I couldn't bring myself to finish. Perhaps if you were to skip out all the chapters dealing with the whinings of a musically talented brat it might be a good read.

Land of Ghosts

When Paul Tallis is asked to go to Russia, or, more precisely, to Chechnya (is that spelt right?) he's not initially all that enthusiastic. Especially when he's told that he's going to pull out a spy who may or may not have 'gone native'. But that particular spy is his childhood friend, and Tallis finds himself launched into a deadly race to reach the spy before the attacks in Moscow escalate even further. Because if the British Intelligence Service is implicated, the international repercussions would be terrible.

Fast paced and engrossing, this book was as good as the blurb suggested. A spy thriller for the modern day, an interesting cast of characters, intriguing plot, gripping story telling. I don't know what else to say. For fans of James Bond, Robert Ludlum, Alistair MacLean, this really is a great spy story.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Mad Kestrel

As promised, I'm reviewing as soon as I've read this book. Nearly took it back to the library unread--I'd grabbed it last minute off the shelf and wasn't totally convinced. It was certainly worth reading. Not the best piece of fantasy I've ever read, but certainly a decent enough one. I was about to say it was good enough that I'll keep an eye out for others, but there are none. Just waiting for the author's website to load so I can see if there's anything in the pipeline.

Any rate, it was fantasy, but I would probably call it more of a pirate story than a dragon and magic sort of fantasy. (Hmm, the author's website would appear to be a blank white page...). Kes is a pirate with a secret. (Oh, it's come up now, and it seems there's only short stories other than Mad Kestrel, which is a shame. I don't really like short stories.) Anyway. Kes ran away to sea, to avoid being imprisoned and forced to work for the Danisoba, because she can use magic. And she's safe at sea, because most Danisoba--all, in fact--are severely weakened by water. Kes has never had that problem. Just an interesting note, I wonder what the magicians are supposed to drink if they can't go near liquid... Anyway, it's a reasonable tale. Her captain isn't who she thought he was, gets himself captured, there's a magic plant which offers fifty years without ageing, and a good deal of swashbuckling adventure. So if you're into pirates, Mad Kestrel is certainly worth looking into. It certainly kept my interest, and there were a couple of nice twists to the plot. If you happen to see it, most definitely worth a read. If not, well, it's probably not worth going to a great deal of trouble looking for. A good book, but more of an adventure story with a bit of magic thrown in than a 'proper' fantasy (then again, who am I to talk about proper fantasy, when the angels in my stories tend to go on missions on earth and most don't have magical powers???). At any rate, if you're into pirate stories, I can recommend this one. If you're more of a 'proper' fantasy fan, well, the magic didn't seem terribly thought through in how it all worked, although it was interesting to have it summoned by whistling/humming/singing. It was the whole water thing that got me--I once had a similar idea as a weakness for a dragon-like species, but realised that they would then dehydrate and die, and that rain would destroy them. Oh, I suppose they can hide inside, but it doesn't seem a great flaw to give a magician. Anyway, Kes didn't suffer from it, for reasons that were disclosed late in the book so I won't tell you why.

On a slightly different aside, why is it that books tend to focus on magic users who have a more than usual skill or a quirk that lets them use magic in a way that other people can't? Anyone know of any fantasy that focusses on someone who can't use magic all that well but isn't a satirical poke at some other book?

Any rate, Mad Kestrel was worth the time it took to read it, and was certainly enjoyable even if not the greatest thing I've ever read. But then, if every book was the greatest thing I'd ever read, then none of them would be...

Saturday, 26 June 2010

No Mercy

Fantastic. I realised half way through that it was going to get a rave review, and the book just kept getting better and better. I nearly didn't read it as well! I wasn't sure if it was quite my kind of thing, but boy am I glad I picked it up at the library. Wow. Couldn't put it down, as in bursting for the loo but walked to the bathroom with book in front of my nose couldn't put it down. Tense, exciting, great action, great character... I realise it's starting to sound as though I like every book I read, but if I don't like them they tend to get abandoned a few chapters in and go back to the library, and hence don't get reviewed... Anyway.

Jonathan Grave. An expert in hostage rescue, who operates outside the law. The nearest character I can think of to compare him to would be Scott Mariani's Ben Hope, but they do have significant differences. Grave is a somewhat darker, more mysterious character, with enough personal details slipped in to bring him to life, but enough excluded to leave you begging for more. The plot is fantastic. You'd think there were only so many permutations of terrorist + biological weapons + shady government dealings that you could find, but John Gilstrap proves that there's always one more you haven't thought of.

It's a fairly standard mission for Grave, even if it does end more messily than he'd like. The hostage is safe, the kidnappers all dead. Nobody, including the hostage, knows who he is, and the cops should draw their own conclusions and not put too much effort into finding him. Until Grave's ex-wife is tortured and murdered, and the man who she loved is discovered, also tortured. And Grave gets a message in the post, a film of the negotiations between the kidnappers and the victims parents, just in case he didn't succeed. Trouble is, Grave discovers, the kidnappers didn't want money. The boss of the kidnappers was after secrets, or, more specifically, after a deadly bioweapon that he's already promised to an African warlord. And Grave had reckoned without a sheriff determined to obey her promise to uphold the law, regardless of weather the murders were committed to rescue a hostage or not.

Tense, exciting, leaves me in no doubt that I'll be after the next as soon as it comes out.

The Cult of Osiris

Okay, I'm so far behind with book reviews it's actually ridiculous. However, I shall do what I can to catch up, and I shall make a determined effort to review everything I read as close to when I read it as possible. So I didn't actually read this book all that long ago, but it's easy to start with the titles and authors I remember off the top of my head and then go fishing up library records.

So, The Cult of Osiris. My only complaint: it finished. And it finished at a most inconvenient time for me too, as I was sat in the dentist waiting for paperwork to be ready to sign so that I could go home. But I'll tell you this now, the Eddie Chase/Nina Wilde (not sure which character has the official title of the series, I think it depends where you look) series just gets better and better. I mean, I thought the first four books were action packed, with interesting characters (especially Eddie and his dozens of friends who happen to be female scattered across the globe), but this one outdid them all. Corrupt government officials, an interesting legend to prove (and one that I'd not heard of before too, which is a definite bonus as there are, let's face it, quite a few books out there with tales of discovering Atlantis in them), great action, and a diabolical plot to foil. All in a day's work in your average archaeological thriller (and if it isn't a genre, there's enough books I've read that'd fit in that it should be), but the quality of the writing is great. I am torn, I don't think I could say it's my out and out favourite in the genre, because David Gibbins is ace too, but I have to say, it's probably better than the most recent Matthew Reilly. And since I'm quite a fan of his... Basically, the book delivered even better than I thought it would. I mean, the others have been great and I've got them all, but I hadn't bought this one. Half because I'm currently pretty skint and going to uni next year so don't want to start buying loads of books, half because I wasn't sure it was going to be as good as the others. I mean, how many interesting legends can you 'prove'? But this one proved to be better than ever. Now I just have to wait for the next one to come out.

Victory Conditions

Okay, so I kinda ended up skipping book four because I couldn't find it and I was pretty keen to read more from this series. But wow. This book was fantastic. I mean, I don't read that much sci-fi (okay, I suppose I have written a fair few reviews of sci-fi, but honestly, I normally go for thrillers), but this has gotta be in the top ranks of the genre. It's thrilling, it's engaging, it's engrossing, it's full of personal detail about the characters, it's got a fantastic range of societies, it's got brilliant action scenes, it's... Yeh, basically anything good about sci-fi goes in that spot. My main complaint is that it finished :(. I ran out of book. It was perfectly understandable despite not having read any other than the third (five book series), although I do feel like I missed out a bit by not reading it. Hope to rectify that problem asap, but the libraries round here don't seem all that keen on fantasy/sci-fi. The characters are brilliant, from Rafe, struggling to appear respectable and hold down a job as CEO of a major company, despite his wild streak, to Ky Vatta, admiral of a multi-planetary force, determined, set on vengeance, skilled leader, through Toby (young, in love, and a technical genius), Stella (Ky's cousin, head of Vatta Enterprises) and on... One other particularly deserving of mention would be Teddy Ransome. From a planet where the people go through stages before becoming an adult, he's introduced as a Romantic, an adventurer, a wild, impulsive man with a strong sense of honour, but he shifts while in space travel and suddenly finds himself more morose and sensible. Brilliant.

Highly recommended, and I'll most definitely be looking out from other books by this author.

Engaging the Enemy

Just realised I hadn't actually reviewed this book already. It's the third in the Vatta's War trilogy, and boy is it good. Believable sci-fi, with a fantastic plot and all those little details that create an alternate reality to escape into. The Vatta empire is under threat, Ky Vatta one of the only family members who remains alive. More, the communications network supposed to provide real-time communications across the vast distances of space (too big to be aboard a ship), are out in parts. So while Ky and her cousin Stella try to not only stay alive, but begin to run their trading business once more, other members of the family are still under threat. A thrilling novel, full of fantastic societies, gripping action, and spell-binding intrigue.

On a slightly different, but related note: the author's name, Elizabeth Moon. Is that not the best name for a sci-fi writer to have? And from what I can see, it's not even a pseudonym... Just thought I couldn't leave that without comment.

Seriously though, I highly recommend this book. Haven't read the ones that come before, but if they're anything like this one... Ky Vatta is a brilliant character, as are Stella and Toby and Rafe and... I could go on. However, for anyone who's into the whole sci-fi/fantasy thing, I can't recommend this enough. And for anyone who isn't... You don't know what you're missing out on :)

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Death Train

Based on a film script by Alastair MacLean, this is a fantastic book. Although you can kinda tell it's not an Alastair MacLean, cos one of the main characters is female *shocked gasp!*. And she's not just a pretty face, a damsel in distress, a femme fatale, or any of those cliches that you tend to find in older thrillers. She's got a brain, she uses it, and she's an integral part of UNACO. The United Nations Anti-Crime Organisation becomes aware that six kegs of plutonium, one damaged, are being shipped around Europe. A fascinating hunt ensues. All the drama you'd expect from an Alastair MacLean, but with even more interesting and well-developed characters than usual. Plenty of twists, plenty of action, plenty of intrigue. Kinda seems mean that Alastair MacNeill didn't get to put his name a bit bigger on the cover, given that he was the person who actually [I]wrote[/I] it, but there you go. I couldn't put it down, a great book that I highly recommend.

This Body of Death

Another gripping novel from Elizabeth George. An out of town cop has been brought in to head Inspector Lynley's old group, but struggles to make headway, particularly with Havers. Scruffy, unconventional, determined to go off her own way, Havers is everything Isabelle Ardery isn't. And Ardery is determined to change her. This novel weaves skilfully between a fascinating murder case and a rather amusing shopping trip, bringing out the characters fantastically. Even if you're not much of a crime lover, this book is well worth the read for the sheer brilliance of the characters, and a plot that will send shivers down your spine. Addressing the issues posed by young murderers along with creating a brilliant atmosphere and drawing you in to the story, I highly recommend 'This Body of Death'. A gripping must read.

With No One as Witness

My mum and I watched the third season of Inspector Lynley together recently. We really enjoyed it, and when we took it back to the library, the librarian told us that the books were much better. "Books!" we both cried, "we didn't know there were books...". And so, I found 'With No One as Witness' by Elizabeth George, and was utterly captivated. The characters are brilliant, I especially love Havers. The detective work is described grippingly, the case is fascinating. A serial killer on the loose in London. Where are his victims being chosen? And why did the Met not notice there was a serial killer until the fourth body was found? Amidst charges of institutionalised racism, Lynley, Nkata (promoted in what everyone knows was a politically inspired move--but everyone also agrees he deserved the promotion), and Havers have to find the serial killer, before the reputation of New Scotland Yard is permanently damaged. (Why is it Scotland Yard by the way? Does anyone know where the name came from?). Fascinating, with characters that actually feel real, and a tragedy that leaves you reading breathlessly on. A read until half two in the morning sort of book, utterly unputdownable and highly recommended.

E Force, State of Emergency

Hmm. Think Thunderbirds, but written more recently. It was good enough that I finished it, but the characters were rather shallow, the action seemed somewhat drawn out (seriously, how hard is it to get out a burning building?! Most of a book's worth of action it seems...). A reasonable plot, but the whole thing shouted Thunderbirds, especially because the vehicles were the 'mole' and the 'firefly', and the two main vehicles were a very fast Mach 10 rocket type thing and a larger, slightly slower carrying aircraft. Hmm. Sounds rather like Thunderbirds 1 and 2 to me. Same with the secret island. Other than being somewhat cliched, and the characters being so shallow they were practically transparent, it was fairly decent. But the main characters were all but indistinguishable from each other, which did lead to me confusing them several times over. Could probably do with a few less main characters, or to be from first person perspective, so that you actually care whether they survive the mission or not. It was the first book in the series, so I am tempted to read the next, if there is a next. One moment... Ah, it's only just come out, there are no others yet. Working on the basis that most authors do improve as they go along, and books tend to get more interesting the further you get in a series (up to a point, when they can end up very samey). So, if you happen to see it in a library, it's probably worth getting out and reading. Unless you're a major fan of Thunderbirds, and want to read what is, in effect, a new version of Thunderbirds, it's probably not worth buying a copy.