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One of the best thrillers I've read in a while - three strong female characters, holding their own against ridiculous odds, a horrific yet plausible set-up, glorious technobabble, and a vividly described setting.

I was vaguely surprised to find that 'P. J. Tracy' is actually a mother-daughter team. I'd half-expected that the initials would conceal a female writer (it seems to be the only way to sell to men, these days; see also Rowling, J. K.) - well, they do. P. J. is the mother and Traci is the daughter. I couldn't have told from the writing; the only blooper, so far as I could see, was that a minor character's unseen wife was called 'Paula' in one chapter and 'Cheryl' in the next.

It took me a depressingly long time to work out that the villains weren't who they claimed to be. I have become very cynical about authority figures with guns, evidently.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8338429
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More of the same, really, with some dodgy physics and some dodgy sexist stuff. I enjoyed the local colour, but overall this failed to thrill.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/11193579
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'And "proliferation" became the word of the day...'

Very different from the film. This is not such a bad thing; I am finding the oeuvre of Roger Moore rather slow going. (No quibbles about his performance, but the actual films are terrible.) There is a villain called Hugo Drax, and that is about the only similarity.

Ian Fleming's tedious style aside (a series of info-dumps linked by occasional bursts of action), book!Bond is much less slappable than film!Bond.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/11193534
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'B' in the alphabet roundabout... only four more to go. I didn't really get on with this, which I think is partly due to the very boring style of the translation (can't comment on the original, obviously) and partly to coming in late in a series I'd never read before, and not finding the characters very sympathetic. I did start to get interested towards the end as the plot came together, but were it not for the fact that this is a ring book I'd probably have given up a long time ago. The animal violence scenes, while effective, weren't tied in well to the rest of it, and seemed to have been put in only to shock; similarly, I wasn't convinced by the cult aspect. Not inclined to find the rest of the Wallander series, I have to say.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7728233
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As usual, John Grisham does a fantastic job of engaging the reader's sympathy for a hero who is in fact the most appalling villain. I found myself rooting for said hero from very early on. The plot was a little bit feeble, with the technobabble rather too obviously made up as the author went along, but I enjoyed the Italian setting.

Releasing at the Dublin convention.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/5127422
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This came through the letterbox, and I, having decided after 61 Hours that I could probably live without Jack Reacher, thought, 'aw, do I have to?'

But this was the ABC roundabout, so I did. And I am prepared to concede that I may have misjudged the gentleman. While 61 Hours was a real slog, this was compelling reading of the sort that had me reluctant to leave the house until I'd finished it.

It's written in the first person, which may have made a difference. Jack Reacher the character seemed much more interesting here than he did in the other book. I did get fed up with the style at times (seriously, nobody had put a cap on personal pronouns the last time I checked) but there were enough good points that I could overlook that.

Some good points:

- impressively plausible worked deductions
- scrupulous presentation of clues
- I confidently pronounced that character X was bound to end up dead or evil, and they didn't
- genuinely surprising twists

I can see now why people get hooked. 61 Hours may have been an anomaly, or part of a larger mid-series slump. Still not hooked myself, mind.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10398249/
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Standard Grisham fare: lawyers, the American South, vast sums of money, yachts, bugging, the lot. In this instance somebody has died, and then disappeared with ninety million. Yes, in that order. The book consists of getting him back from the underworld (to which, of course, he has not gone) and then getting him out of all the trouble he's got himself into.

I didn't really get into this, to be honest, and the only reason I finished it was that I was putting off going shopping. I failed to have much sympathy for the central character, and the twist at the end somehow managed to be both predictable and unconvincing.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9880651
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A gift in the BookCrossing 'Twelve Days of Christmas' exchange - it arrived with a box full of drumstick lollies, toy percussion instruments, drummer Christmas ornaments, and the like. And I managed to finish reading it within the twelve days of Christmas, so.

The relevance of the title does not become apparent until quite a long way through, and I don't wish to spoil anyone, so I won't explain. I will say that the plot involves a disgraced US Foreign Service officer working with a bunch of suspicious characters (my favourite sort of character!) to thwart terrorism. It took me a while to get into, but once the suspicious characters had shown up and the team had gelled, I was hooked. There were a couple of twists I didn't see coming, and, while the ultimate threat felt rather insubstantial, it was a reasonably suspenseful read.

There was quite a lot of anti-Muslim stereotyping in here. While this is hardly surprising given the subject matter, it did make me feel very uncomfortable.

I do wonder how different this novel would be had it been published in 2002 rather than 1998, mind you.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10329708
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I've deliberately cut back on reading modern crime in recent weeks, having felt a little overwhelmed by it in the autumn. I think this strategy, combined with the genuine merits of this novel, paid off; Flight of the Stone Angel held my attention in a way that many modern mysteries have failed to do.

It's hard to put my finger on what makes this one so good: partly it's the lush descriptions of the Mississippi landscape, I think (I started out finding them rather pretentious, but they grew on me). Probably nearer the mark, though, is the element of surprise. So many thrillers are so tediously formulaic, and in this one I honestly didn't know what was going to happen next. Wonderfully ambiguous characters, too, with plenty left unsaid about all of them.

And it ended with that satisfying/frustrating revelation: that the entire mystery was laid out before the reader all the way through, and you really ought to have guessed it.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7891852
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
First Among Sequels - Jasper Fforde

Re-read. I had forgotten quite how much fun this series is. As ever, I found the BookWorld parts much more interesting than the AU!Swindon, but it's all very enjoyable.


The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C S Lewis

Re-read of an old friend. This isn't my favourite of the Narnia books (that accolade goes to Dawn Treader) but it has some wonderful moments and is a joy to revisit.


61 Hours - Lee Child

Trying this to see what all the fuss is about. It took me a while to get into, for all that the first thirty hours take up a lot less page space than the remainder. Once I did, it was harder to put down, but I still don't quite get all the Jack Reacher-mania.


Deadheads - Reginald Hill

As ever, I am hopping around all over the place within the series. I started off quite well with Dalziel and Pascoe (that is, with A Clubbable Woman) but I've skipped about ten years, I think. I liked this one - the use of rose varieties for the chapter headings was interesting, characterisation fantastic, lovely twist in the tail. Poor Sergeant Wield, though!


While the Light Lasts - Agatha Christie

A collection of not recently republished short stories. Something of a disappointment, as I found that I'd read most or all of these before, even if not necessarily in this particular form. A number of them are in The Hound of Death. Quite interesting as a curiosity, anyway, and it's good to have re-read them.


Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean - Justin Somper

Shipwrecked twins, each fearing the other dead (so far, so Twelfth Night) get picked up by pirates. The boy ends up with normal pirates (in so far as this is possible, it being the 26th century); the girl with the titular Vampirates. They spend the book trying to find each other. Blood and guts and gore, usual piratey stuff. Unimpressed that Grace spends most of the time stuck in a cabin while Connor gets to do sword-fighting and such; maybe the balance is redressed in later books?


The Mind-Readers - Margery Allingham

Couldn't get into this; gave up.


More William - Richmal Crompton

More William? Absolutely. Vastly improves a day in bed with the flu. My favourites in this one: A Busy Day, William's Burglar, The Ghost, The May King, and William and the Smuggler.


The Morning Gift - Eva Ibbotson

Another Ibbotson romance featuring refugees and desirable Englishmen. While still fairly formulaic, this is a departure from Ibbotson's usual form in that the protagonists get married in chapter 2 and then spend the rest of the book working out that actually they might want to stay married. Though of course it's considerably more complicated than it needs to be, and at times I was wishing to smack both of them round the head. I love the backgrounds, though, and in this case particularly intellectual Vienna.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
This is a surprise book in the BookCrossing ABC roundabout (I started off the G round with 'Gods Behaving Badly' and we're working up the alphabet). I could have done without another modern crime thriller, having overdosed spectacularly over the past few weeks, but that says more about me than it does about the book, so let's leave that aside.

This is set in a New Orleans radio station, where the star turn, a psychologist who hosts a late-night phone-in show, is receiving phone calls from a mystery man. I felt that the setting was evocatively described, and the mystery was reasonably interesting; however, some of the gender politics made me roll my eyes a bit (a girl ends up dead because she is 'too ambitious', hmm, hmm) and what with that and them glazing over in the sex scenes they got rather over-exercised.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10203084
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
This is my last dark, moody, twisted spy thriller for a while, I think, and it's a good note to finish on. This is a very skilful novel, integrating two narratives, the mother's and the duaghter's, seamlessly, with a fantastic sense of time. I think on the whole the WW2 part was more successful than the seventies part, but the latter certainly added a lot. Recommended.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10200598/
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Another MacLean first person spy thriller. Set mainly in Amsterdam, it throws in most of the Dutch stereotypes you can think of: tall white hats, barrel organs, drugs (treated, from cannabis to heroin, with blanket horror). Very stereotypically MacLean, too: smartarse narrator, distracting but not necessarily competent women, and never-trust-anyone, die horribly (particularly if you're a competent woman), plot. Much like Fleming's Bond. It kept me guessing - and reading.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10200586/
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According to my father in law, this is the one that's never taken off, that's never been filmed, etc, etc, etc. I had got to about page seventy-five by the time he told me this, and I must say I can rather see why. It was something of an uphill struggle. However, I persevered to the end, and found that it continued to be turgid, far-fetched, and not really gripping enough to compensate for the general unlikeability of the characters. All of the characters.

A pity, because on the whole I enjoy Alistair MacLean, but not this one.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7613098
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This book is made of weapons-grade WTF. After I'd realised that it wasn't in fact a historical romance but a thriller with a side of historical romance I boggled slightly less, but trust me, I really didn't need a rape scene in olde Englisshe followed swiftly by a large chunk lifted from Julian of Norwich. This all makes sense later in the book, but doesn't stop me being mentally scarred in the mean time. So yes; the first half is nicked from Julian (who deserves far, far better); the second from The Collector. And I am pretty sure that Anya Seton does the same thing far, far better in Green Darkness.

It was quite interesting to read this as a Surrey resident, half knowing my way around Shere. I think, though, that this suffered from the same problem that afflicts many amateur authors who set their books in places they know well: throwing place names here, there and everywhere, without considering that the reader may not have such an extensive mental map.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8595045
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Unless you're in a Susan Howatch novel, in which case each unhappy family will feel irritatingly reminiscent of something you're sure you've read before, and then you get to the end and she tells you which episode of classical/medieval/church history it's based on, and you will feel very stupid. And, in my case, lazy, as I was fully expecting her to pull the same trick, and it's not as if she didn't leave clues liberally scattered around this one. And I've read Katherine... oh well.

Anyhow, this is a real brick of a novel, over eleven hundred pages of small print encompassing four generations of sex, death and foul language. (I assume this one was written before Howatch got religion, but, thinking about the last section, perhaps not, after all - Starbridge and after are equally full of sex and death, but more God and less swearing on the whole.) I must admit that I was beginning to flag around about page nine hundred and fifty, but, having ploughed through to the end, feel vaguely rewarded.

I will leave it a while before I move on to Penmarric, which is one of the few Howatch sagas I haven't yet read; having just looked her up on Wikipedia, I know which episode of English history that one's based on.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Something of a disappointment; this lacked the excitement and suspense of some of the other Grishams I've read. I had hoped, for example, that the main character would have made a more interesting use of his pilot's license than simply flying to a casino and back again. This was but one of many plot coupons that was introduced and then never cashed in. Dull all round.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10020349
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Possibly the first spy thriller that's ever made me laugh. In a good way, I hasten to add. Deighton's narrator has a cynical demeanour and a witty turn of phrase that make this a fun read, even though I did get lost in the plot somewhere in the middle. Most of it made sense by the end, so it's all good.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10020340
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A silly book. Or perhaps not silly so much as trying to encompass two genres, where in the one certain things are assumed to be true and in the other they are assumed to be false, and falling between the two stools. Sometimes it is appropriate to leave questions unanswered; at other times it just looks as if the author is trying to have her cake and eat it. All her characters choose one way or the other. She doesn't.

Unimpressed by nobody being able to work out mirror writing until actually seeing it in a mirror. I like to have my detectives be cleverer than me.

Also, lots of people thinking in italics, and that always annoys me. I've worked out why, now: it's because it enforces too sharp a demarcation between the character's thoughts and the author's. It's almost like a point of view shift mid-paragraph; it's something that would flow past me if the typeface remained the same, but marking it out like that makes a nasty, sudden jolt.

And once one has Susan Howatch's psychic clerics in one's head, they never leave. I had Frs Darrow and Hall tut-tutting all the way through about Messing Around with the paranormal, Being Too Sceptical, Being Too Gullible, and Breaking One's Vows And Then Celebrating Mass Without Having First Made Confession. But that's my problem rather than Tess Gerritsen's.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10020326

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