Shastrix Books

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The Witness at the Wedding

The Witness at the Wedding

23rd January 2019

After what feels like a couple of years I finally found this, the next book in the Fethering series - and dived back into the comfortable lives of Carole and Jude. Carole’s son is getting married - injecting a fun element of soap opera to the plot - but there are murderous goings-on amongst his future in-laws which Carole feels compelled to get to the bottom of.

Comfortable is definitely the right word for this book. Its familiarity makes for a relaxing read, and Brett manages to find new ways to take the classic murder mystery and make it really fun.

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Skyward

Skyward

23rd January 2019

I honestly don’t know how Brandon Sanderson can create so many amazing different worlds. This one is a new series - a science fiction tale that’s marketed as Young Adult but is frankly as suitable for any adult as any of his other works. It’s the tale of a colony defending itself against alien attack, and a teenager who wants to be a pilot in defiance of those around her.

It took me a couple of chapters to get into the swing of the novel - but from then I was completely hooked. There’s so much going on with all the distinct and complex characters - who are gradually unpicked throughout - the intrigue and mystery of the various threads of the plot, the action and adventure, the science fiction principles and world building, and the odd little teases that there’s something else going on under the surface.

It’s like a cross between Sanderson’s Rithmatist (another excellent tale about a child at a school they aren’t wanted at) and Ernest Cline’s Armada, and I absolutely loved it and am so glad that there are going to be three more books in the series.

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Masks

Masks

23rd January 2019

A Star Trek: The Next Generation novel from (probably) the late 80s - set during the second season of the TV show (as evidenced by the presence of Dr Pulaski) and seeing Picard and several of his crew marooned on a planet where an old Earth colony has evolved into something resembling mediaeval Europe.

The plot is interesting and keeps moving at a good pace - there’s multiple threads going on and lots of the characters get to play. However it also feels a bit odd - there’s a visiting Ambassador who is typically troublesome, and this feels like it’s a bit of an over-used Trek trope.

John Vornholt has, following this novel, written quite a few Trek novels, several of which I’ve read - but it’s quite clear in this one that he’s in his early days of familiarity with the TNG crew. There are some elements which are clearly just things that the series hasn’t addressed yet, so they weren’t contradictions at the time of writing - but others (such as using the letters JG in ‘Lieutenant JG Worf’ as if they are the character’s initials rather than part of his rank) that wouldn’t slip through the net today.

So, not a perfect novel, and one that feels slightly dated having seen what the whole of TNG is like (well, to date) - but still an entertaining one that’s worth reading even if you aren’t a completionist.

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Shadow Wave

Shadow Wave

23rd January 2019

The final novel in Robert Muchamore’s original Cherub series is a bit different (this seems to be a trend in this sort of young adult series actually). James, now 17, has a little more agency and decides to refuse a mission on moral grounds - and creates a mission of his own instead.

It’s a great twist actually, and wraps James’ story up quite nicely in a way that concludes the long arc that we’ve followed as readers since he was much younger. The book retains some of the key elements from earlier stories, revisits a lot of the important characters, and is full of the usual action, and realism, that I’ve come to expect.

I really enjoyed this adventure and am quite disappointed that this main series has come to an end - despite the knowledge that there are already two spin-off series, one of which I’ve already begun reading.

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Five Children and It

Five Children and It

23rd January 2019

I first read this book many years ago, and recall vaguely a television series based on it. I was inspired to pick it back off the shelf after I’d been discussing it with some colleagues. It’s the tale of a family of children, who with their mother and servants, retire to stay in a somewhat dilapidated house in the countryside, near a disused quarry.

There are a number of what I think of as nods to the adults that I suspect the author believes to be reading to the intended youthful audience, but much of the backstory that might interest an adult is skipped over in favour of the adventure. There’s certainly a dated element to it - I suspect a lot would not be identify-with-able for today’s young audience without having to set some of the historical context (but I could be wrong) - and this is true of the narration as well as the content.

I’m not entirely sure what the point of the book is - it’s clearly not strictly educational, but I’m also not convinced there’s much of a morality tale to it beyond explaining the law of unintended consequences. Perhaps it is indeed just a fun adventure - which it still is, just about.

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Buy book: UK
Past Tense

Past Tense

23rd January 2019

The latest in the long series of Jack Reacher novels sees the ex-Army nomad wandering America when he spots the hometown of his father - and in an uncharacteristic bout of nostalgia he decides to have a look around. Turns out that things aren’t as they seem.

The book seems to have two parallel storylines that only really interact by virtue of being in the same place at the same time, and both involving the same character. Okay, this description makes them sound quite connected, but thematically they don’t seem linked and the two plots don’t seem to tie together particularly well - it’s almost like two shorter stories glued together.

However it’s not a bad adventure, and I quite enjoyed the mystery aspects and trying to guess what was going on. I think I worked out one of the major reveals quite early on, but I certainly missed some of the clues and didn’t get everything right.

A perfectly serviceable entry in the series despite the slight disjointedness.

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Rin, Tongue and Dorner

Rin, Tongue and Dorner

23rd January 2019

A weird book that I was leant by a friend. It follows the life of an engineer in a post-apocalyptic society, where people live on islands under domed habitats kept warm in a snowball earth scenario by massive, temperamental generators. It’s a fascinating setting and has the potential to make for a really interesting story - but unfortunately this isn’t that story.

The narrative focusses on the engineer Dorner as he falls in love with Rin and is affected by a voice in his head called Tongue. After a quantity of sex and weirdness, the narrative descends into a chaotic mess of fire that I struggled to follow or maintain any interest in.

I’m afraid I don’t think I got it - I wasn’t entertained, and only really made myself keep reading to the end so that I could provide adequate feedback to my friend. Not recommended.

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Reading soon

  1. White Sand volume two
  2. Madness is Better than Defeat
  3. The Way to the Stars
  4. The Crimes of Grindlewald
  5. Lies Sleeping
  6. The Clue of the Broken Blade