23 Sep 2013

THE STRING DIARIES - STEPHEN LLOYD JONES

SUMMARY
A jumble of entries, written in different hands, different languages, and different times. They tell of a rumour. A shadow. A killer. The only interest that Oxford Professor Charles Meredith has in the diaries is as a record of Hungarian folklore... until he comes face to face with a myth.

For Hannah Wilde, the diaries are a survival guide that taught her the three rules she lives by: verify everyone, trust no one, and if in any doubt, run. But Hannah knows that if her daughter is ever going to be safe, she will have to stop running and face the terror that has hunted her family for five generations. And nothing in the diaries can prepare her for that.

REVIEW
The String Diaries tells the story of Hannah, on the run and trying to protect her family from the supernatural figure of Jakab, who has terrified them for generations. The narrative flicks between Hannah, set in the present day; Charles, Hannah's father set in the 1970's, and Jakab in 1700's Hungary.

I picked up The String Diaries after wanting something similar to The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper, which I adored. While the tension builds well, with great shifts in narrative, I felt that it dissipated too quickly without any resolution or any particular amount of action. The writing style is easy and fluid but it's tense. There is so much loss and tragedy that I found myself getting quite depressed in places.

This is a holiday read, and it didn't really do much more for me than that. The supernatural could have  been more sinister, more believable. Jakab's changed should have been more gory, more gripping, probably even more disgusting than it is. I also wanted the book to explore proper old manuscripts or for extracts from the diaries for the reader to decipher, but everything is done for you. It's good to see the diaries played out but I'd rather that have been an award for cracking a code in the text. It should have felt more like excavating ancient secrets rather than a series of strained vignettes.

22 Sep 2013

THE BIG OVER EASY - JASPER FFORDE

SUMMARY
It's Easter in Reading - a bad time for eggs - and no one can remember the last sunny day. Humpty Dumpty, well-known nursery favourite, large egg, ex-convict and former millionaire philanthropist is found shattered beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. Following the pathologist's careful reconstruction of Humpty's shell, Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his Sergeant Mary Mary are soon grappling with a sinister plot involving cross-border money laundering, the illegal Bearnaise sauce market, corporate politics and the cut and thrust world of international Chiropody.

As Jack and Mary stumble around the streets of Reading in Jack's Lime Green Austin Allegro, the clues pile up, but Jack has his own problems to deal with. And on top of everything else, the Jellyman is coming to town...

REVIEW
If I'm looking for a comic book I want something with in-jokes I can understand, something that mocks its own form, and something that at times is just downright stupid.

The Big Over Easy is a super easy read that made me laugh on every page. It was just what I needed after weeks of reading emotional writing. It follows Jack Spratt, DI for in the Reading Police Force who heads up the tiny NCD (Nursery Crime Division). I just thought this was the most awesome premise ever and made me rather jealous that I hadn't come up with it myself. It takes the nursery rhymes of your childhood - which, if you don't know them, then your parents have failed you - and puts them up against modern law and thinking, with interesting results. For example, the story opens with Jack failing to secure a sentence against the Three Little Pigs, who were on trial for the murder of the Big Bad Wolf. What is not to love in that?

The main story is the investigation of the death of Humpty Dumpty who - you guessed it - is smashed to pieces at the base of his favourite wall. But did he fall or was he pushed? Even though you think you know their stories these character will continue to surprise you and the twists and turns are enough to rival the most serious of crime novels. I never knew who to trust.

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