Monday, 10 October 2011

Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay

Jade Rating: 4/5

David Harwood, a local newspaper journalist is ready to spend a pleasant day in the new local amusement park with his son and wife Jan when out of the blue, his wife disappears. Whilst the police investigate the disappearance of Harwood's wife, increasing evidence points towards him being responsible. Determined to uncover the truth, Harwood launches into a personal investigation and unveils some uncomfortable truths that lead him to believe that his wife may not be who he thought she was. A tale of kidnap, intrigue, murder and despair, Barclay maintains the suspense throughout the book and uses his usual formula to maintain audience interest.

Barclay remains one of my favourite authors, but I found myself predicting how the story would be unfolding. Despite this, he still offers cliffhangers and leaves you wanting to keep reading to find out what happens.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

Jade Rating 3/5.

The first in Patterson's Alex Cross series published in 1993 when race was a more prominent issue than in modern society. It centres around Cross's life when two rich school children Maggie Rose Dunne and Michael Goldberg are kidnapped by their teacher fondly nicknamed 'Mr Chip' who is actually the more sinister Gary Soneji. We follow Cross's personal relationship with a white female government agent: Jezzie Flannagan and the troubles surrounding their interracial relationship is explored. It is interesting to see the changes in racial perspectives from an early 90s point of view and how society has progressed since then.

Our first look into Cross's mind, exploring the psychology of Soneji following the death of Michael Goldberg and the suspense is maintained throughout the book. An interesting read, and it is fair to say that Patterson's success through his Alex Cross series is set on firm foundations. Cross battles his own personal issues with the power wars at work between agencies etc and the plot unfolds carefully to reach a thrilling climax by the end.

Overall, I feel this is a good book to read, if a little dated in modern times; but I guess crime thrillers age well, and I enjoyed reading this enough to continue with Cross's adventures.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J K Rowling

Jade Rating: 5/5

I am sure that everyone knows the story of Harry Potter by now as a result of the popular cinema intepretation of the books. The concluding book to the Harry Potter series ties up the loose ends from the series to perfection. No questions are left unanswered by the end of the book, and the amazing way in which Rowling links back to tiny details mentioned in the previous books in the series makes this an enthralling read.
This book sees Harry Potter and the team develop as adults, taking on the responsibility of fighting Voldemont without the safety net of Dumbledore to fall back on. The characters develop into adults and their worries no longer focus around school and common problems faced by children worldwide; instead they take on the weight of the world and are forced to make huge decisions that would be hard for grown adults to make.
Rowling keeps the magical world of Harry Potter very much alive throughout the book, and the audience is completely absorbed into this fictional world. The realism and believeability of Rowling's descriptions and explanations is what makes this series a must read. Despite theiir magical abilities, Potter and co face confusion, hurt and emotional turmoil throughout the book and the audience really empathise with the trio as they face their toughest trials and tribulations.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

E-Readers Vs Physical Books

I have always been a die hard fan of the traditional book that you can hold and snuggle up with at night. More recently, as a result of relocation of the Jade Empire HQ, I have been converted to the digital storage of books and the use of an e-reader. What are the pros and cons of both formats?

Traditional books will always feature in my life. They make you feel cosy and warm. When you turn the pages, you can smell the paper and often, borrowed books will harbour the lingering fragrance of the nearest and dearest who were kind enough to loan you their book. I love crawling into bed after a long day, and flicking through the pages; letting myself be completely absorbed into a fantasy world that has been created for me and stored in the pages. They also do not run out of battery, so you are able to continue reading regardless of how long you have been at it. However, my vast collection of fiction is forever increasing in size, and it has become impractical to move it around with me. A 450 mile relocation this month has meant that Jade HQ had to scale down and as leaving behind my favourite reads was not an option, digital storage. So, how have I been finding it? Well, I am currently re-reading the first Harry Potter book (An enjoyable read I like to indulge in once in a while) and will be reviewing this at a later date. I have to say, e-readers are very similar to reading the original paper form. Sometimes, I even forget I am not holding the book and that I am actually reading from a screen! The simplicity of the e-reader and with the E-Ink (r) Pearl display has actually made me forget I was not reading my paper copy of the book on several occasions. Having taken it around a bit, it has to be said that the e-reader weighs almost nothing and it's slimline design makes it very portable indeed. Disadvantages of the e-reader? Well, firstly I read quite quickly so am quickly reaching the bottom of the 'page' and needing to turn the page constantly. Secondly, e-readers are slightly less resilient to damage than a traditional book, and although I have always treated all my paperbacks with care and respect, this cannot be guaranteed when you are out so caution is needed.

My verdict? I am definitely glad I have been converted, although I will still be buying paper books occasionally too!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller

Jade Rating: 4/5.

The plot revolves around a history teacher Barbara Covett's narrative of an illicit affair between her fellow colleague Sheba Hart and her teenage student Stephen Connolly. Despite having a seemingly happy and normal marriage, a good relationship with her children and a good job as a pottery teacher at the local high school, Hart risks it all to have an affair with Connolly despite being fully aware of the inappropriate nature of this relationship. Covett appears to be Hart's only comrade when this scandal becomes public, however things are not what they seem. Despite Hart's affair which goes against every social convention and is an obvious abuse of power, the audience feel empathy for her as Covett 'unintentionally' reveals to us that she is overbearing in their relationship as friends and explores Hart's family problems too.
Heller's narration through the voice of Covett is detailed and extremely believable and I often forgot that her irrational and sometimes outrageous ideas about friendship were fictional outbursts and that I was reading a book! Her overbearing nature and her intimate relationship with Hart makes her 'busybody' narrative exciting and a great joy to read. She also reveals aspects of her lonely spinster existence and social awkwardness which serves to explain her hostile behaviour.
Although the storyline was well structured and narrated, I wanted it to be longer and to explore the unconventional friendship between Hart and Covett. I think another chapter at the end of the book to wrap up the story would have made this a better read.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Halfhead by Stuart B MacBribe

Jade Rating: 3/5.

Set in the 'future' where criminals are labotomised, physically mutilated and made to carry out menial jobs as almost living zombies to provide a constant reminder of why crime doesn't pay, a series of murders brings together the team from 'the Network' as headed by assistant director William Hunter and Detective Sergent Josephine Cameron from the local law enforcers the 'Bluecoats'. From the offset, we descover that the protagonist of the murders is Hunter's arch nemesis Dr Fiona Westfield, a serial killer who was halfheaded after a successful conviction following her crimes, a case lead by Hunter himself.
The main weakness of the plot is that it takes MacBride half the book to set up and explain his fictional futuristic world and I was left confused despite this overindulgence, mainly as a result of the authors overuse of fictional vocabulary for weapons, transport, medical equipment & procedures as well as an arsenal of things he incorporates into the book. I still don't understand why parts of the city were dangerous to venture into to the extent that it was described, and often their equipment was just too much. An example of this is Hunter's use of his Cracker to download information from the hospital files... Now, what is a cracker? Is it the same as a USB flash drive or is it another implant like the virtual reality input port on the back of everybody's head?! I think the plot needed a nerdy character that reminds the reader of the technological inventions in this world... Like a Hermione Granger from Harry Potter who frequently reminds the other characters and the reader why some things are not possible. I just couldn't believe in the world MacBride created in this novel and coupled with the lack of any real character development, it was more or less just a horror-fest.

However, all is not lost with this story. The murder scenes are disturbing but highly original for which credit must be given. Overall, I'm disappointed. This book could have been so much better.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo

Jade Rating: 2/5.

Although not strictly fiction, this true crime tale follows Richard 'the Ice Man' Kuklinski through his memories and recollections of his life as a professional hitman. Highly descriptive and graphic, leaving the audience baffled by the imaginative ways one can be murdered, with a sound attempt at exploring Kuklinski's emotions and thoughts during the murders described through the book. However, I wasn't excited to read this book at all. Infact, it took me a whole month to finish which is a lifetime at Jade HQ, emphasising just how I wasn't captivated by the plot. There was a lot of repetition throughout the book as Carlo was trying to ensure the audience were aware of the relationship between Kulinkski and his wife, his volatile temper and cool demeanor, mob ties, his relationship with others etc etc. This repetition did ruin an otherwise interesting read. Carlo has the ability to inject lashings of the Ice Man's emotions into the text which humanises him beyond an official document and has an excellent ability to tell a story without bias, despite some of the murders being truly horrific. All I can say is that I'm glad I bought this one in the sales as I would have been annoyed to have paid full price for this read.