22 September 2014

Milestones

It always gives me a little frisson when I reach 100 books for the year.

I seem to have been reading even more slowly this month so it seems to mean even more.

This is what my "reading challenges update" says I have been reading this year. (Some of my challenges have slipped off the radar). My preference for British, Australian, and e-books dominates.

21 September 2014

Review: ALREADY DEAD, Jaye Ford

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • source: Net Galley
  • publisher: Random House Australia
  • published September 2014
Synopsis (Net Galley)

Already Dead is another heart-stopping ride of sheer suspense from the author of the bestselling BEYOND FEAR.

Miranda shrank away from him, arm pressed to the driver's door. 'What's your name?''
'I'm already dead. That's my name now. That's what they called me. I'm Already Dead.'

Journalist Miranda Jack is finally attempting to move on from the death of her husband by relocating up the coast with her young daughter, Zoe. Then a single event changes everything.
On a Monday afternoon as she waits at traffic lights, a stranger jumps into her car and points a gun at her chest. Forced to drive at high speed up the motorway, Miranda listens to the frantic, paranoid rants of Brendan Walsh, a man who claims he's being chased and that they're both now running for their lives.

Two hours later her ordeal is over in the most shocking fashion. Miranda is safe but she can't simply walk away - not without knowing the truth about that terrifying drive. As a journalist Miranda has always asked questions. But this time the questions are dangerous - and the answers might get her killed . . . 

My Take

Miranda Jack and her friends have at times discussed what they would do if someone carjacked them. But Jax does none of those things.

Once again Jaye Ford has written a gripping tale, based on something that conceivably could happen to anyone of us. But we probably wouldn't be carrying the baggage that Miranda Jack is. But we probably wouldn't have her personal skills and determination either.

An excellent read, by an Aussie author you should watch.

My rating: 4.7

I've also reviewed
4.4, BEYOND FEAR
4.5, SCARED YET?
4.5, BLOOD SECRET

17 September 2014

Review: THE SILKWORM, Robert Galbraith

  • published in 2014 by Speher
  • ISBN 978-1-4087-0403-5
  • #2 in the Cormoran Strike series
  • 455 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)



A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, The Silkworm is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant Robin Ellacott.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before…

My Take

I have previously read the first in this series, THE CUCKOO'S CALLING, and thoroughly enjoyed it. An ex-soldier, Cormoran Strike is a different sort of sleuth and he and his secretary/assistant Robin Ellacott make a good pair. Many of the themes/bylines that began in the first novel are continued and it will probably help a bit if you read them in order.

But to be honest I am a bit disappointed with THE SILKWORM. I thought it was a bit long and unnecessarily complex, particularly in the final explanations, almost as if the author wanted to keep the readers puzzled until the very end, and to be able to say with a flourish "There! You didn't guess that! Did you?"

Mind you, it is still a good read for the most part and you may not get as impatient as me for the ending to come.

My rating: 4.5

Read an extract on the novelist's website.

11 September 2014

Review: QUICK, Steve Worland

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1041 KB
  • Print Length: 340 pages
  • Publisher: e-penguin (August 27, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00L4T1UHS
  • source: publisher review copy at NetGalley
Synopsis (NetGalley)

Strap in for a breathtaking, tyre-peeling, high-octane adventure ride by the rising star of action thrillers.

Melbourne, Australia: Round one of the Formula One World Championship. Billy Hotchkiss no longer races a V8 Supercar, but that doesn't mean he's lost the need for speed. When the young cop uncovers a diamond heist in progress he leaps into action and almost captures the thieves single-handedly.

Lyon, France: Interpol are convinced the criminals are somehow connected to Formula One. And they think this Australian ex-race driver is just the guy to stop them.
Sent undercover with an unwilling French partner, Billy is thrust into the glamorous world of international motor racing. But as the duo closes in on the thieves they soon expose a far more sinister threat.

With the fate of a city and the lives of one hundred thousand people in the balance, Billy must drive like never before to stop the worst act of terror since 9/11.

My Take

When the author contacted me about reviewing this title he didn't know that I am an addicted Formula One couch potato. I was interested to see what sort of crime fiction novel you could set in the Formula One world.

The answer is a fast-paced sizzling thriller, with lots of mind blowing stunts, and a seemingly indestructible and multi-talented protagonist.

I guess being familiar with the names of drivers, the location of tracks etc. really fuelled my enjoyment but I also enjoyed seeing the F1 world from the inside, and I learnt a few things too.

The novel really zips along and stretches the bounds of credibility. But who cares? The pure escapism had me snickering at times. And there's mystery too as you try to work the identity of the Three Champions that Billy Hotchkiss is tracking, as well as what they will ultimately aim to do, and why they are doing it.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Steve Worland has worked extensively in film and television in Australia and the USA. He has written scripts for Working Title and Icon Productions, worked in script development for James Cameron's Lightstorm and wrote Fox Searchlight's 'Bootmen', which won five Australian Film Institute awards.

Steve also wrote the action-comedy telemovie 'Hard Knox', the bible and episodes of the television series 'Big Sky' and the Saturn award-winning 'Farscape'. The family film 'Paper Planes', which he co-wrote, will be released worldwide in 2015. His novelisation of the screenplay will be released at the same time.

He is the author of the action-adventure novels 'Velocity', 'Combustion' and 'Quick' and is currently writing his fourth book.

6 September 2014

Review: THE MURDER BAG, Tony Parsons - audio book

  • format: audio book from Audible.com
  • Narrated by: Colin Mace
  • Length: 9 hrs and 54 mins 
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Published by Whole Book 2014
Synopsis (Publisher)

Twenty years ago seven students became friends at their exclusive private school, Potter's Field. Now they have started dying in the most violent way imaginable.

Detective Max Wolfe follows the bloody trail from the backstreets and bright lights of the city, to the darkest corners of the corridors of power. As the bodies pile up, Max finds he is fighting not only for justice, but for his own life.... 

My Take

The publisher's blurb says this is the first in a new crime series. In fact Fantastic Fiction tells me the title for the second in the Max Wolfe series to be published in 2015 is THE SLAUGHTER MAN.

Detective Max Wolfe has recently arrived in the Homicide division of London's West End Central, 27 Savile Row, and he is a bit of a loose cannon. As far as Max is concerned his colleagues and superior officers are too easily distracted from the scent, too easily deterred from following a lead.

Max is a single father of a little girl, and somehow Scout makes him understand that he has to do his job thoroughly to protect people just like his daughter.

For most of the novel the reader knows what connects the ex private school students who are being killed one by one, but not who the person killing them is. Four are dead and someone is imprisoned for their murder but Max is convinced it is not over yet. And of course Max is right.

In some ways the elements of this story are predictable but there is enough mystery to keep you going. The narration by Colin Mace is superb.

My rating: 4.6

4 September 2014

Review: THE WALLS OF JERICHO, Jack Bunyan

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1852 KB
  • Print Length: 334 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DG0JYL2
  • published December 2013
Synopsis (Amazon)

A classic murder mystery set in the competitive world of brass banding. Gerald Martin, a respected  figure in the brass band world, collapses from a gas attack in the adjudicator's booth in the middle of a competition taking place in the Midlands.

Maggie Sparrow is a player at the competition who witnesses the incident. She is also a police detective and finds herself in charge of the case. A confident and capable chief inspector, even Maggie is unprepared for the unexpected direction the investigation takes towards its dramatic resolution.

My Take

Once the police investigation into the murder of Gerald Martin really gets underway, it becomes obvious that he had many enemies, many fingers in many pies, and many who were glad to see him gone. Altogether he was a pretty nasty character.

I found this debut novel quite an enjoyable read. I have lurked on the fringes of Australian brass banding for over three decades and this is the first novel I have ever read set in a brass band competition. I'm sure there will be an eager audience amongst people like me.

On the surface THE WALLS OF JERICHO is a well constructed police procedural, with plenty of red herrings, and some interesting sub-plots.

However this novel has a few editing problems
  • The author has a lot he wants to tell us about brass banding in Britain, and in some senses he hasn't known when to stop. There is a lot of background material about competitions, adjudication and so on, and I'm not sure we needed to know it all.
  • I had the feeling that the author had a lot that he wanted to say in relation to how brass banding works and that he had been waiting a long time to get it off his chest.
  • I think there was a similar lack of editing problem with character construction. This novel actually has a considerable cast of characters, but the author has decided to flesh them all out in some detail, including a lot of biographical detail.
  • There is also a timeline problem. New plot strands appear out of sequence. It is always difficult to know how to introduce new sequences but it is not really helpful if they are plucked from well behind the timeline of the police investigation, particularly not when the murder victim has been dead for some days, and this sequence of action begins some days prior.
All of the above looks like a wad of major criticism but in fact are just pointers to how the length of the novel might have been managed better, and how the underlying structure could have been made tighter.

In the long run there proved to be too many sub-plots, too much interweaving, too many back-stories. The author created problems for himself here because these sub-plots required resolution, and in some cases he took the path of disposing of the character.

My rating: 3.9

About the author

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