Book review: The Bourne Ultimatum by Robert Ludlum

I made a rookie mistake reading The Bourne Ultimatum: I assumed that my rudimentary knowledge of the Bourne films would carry me through this. That’s not the case, of course, and having not read the preceding two novels in this trilogy, I was high and dry and very very confused. There’s so much that doesn’t…

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Book review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue’s Room is a novel you almost can’t escape in bookshops at the moment. However, having read the synopsis, I’d almost managed to convince myself that it was a kind of 1984 style novel in which everyone lived in isolated pods. Not so. In case you didn’t guess, Room is a unique story of entrapment and…

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Book review: David Kessler – The End Of Overeating

I rarely review non-fiction books here on Shout, but I’ll make an exception for this one. David Kessler’s The End Of Overeating is a comprehensive look at the science behind rising obesity levels in the western world. You don’t read a book like this without a reason. For me, I’d decided a while back to tackle…

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Charlaine Harris – All Together Dead – Book review

For me, All Together Dead is the novel where Charlaine Harris begins to pull out of a 2-3 novel slump. Wisely ditching the majority of werewolf characters, she drags Sookie Stackhouse into a vampire summit, simplifying the story immensely and delving deeper into the world of the undead than ever before.

In fact, even Sookie’s fairy godmother Claudine warns her that by attending the vampire summit, she’ll never be able to break her association with the vampire hierarchy.

Basically, Sookie is employed by Sophie Anne LeClerq as a telepath at the summit to make sure there are no surprises from the human guests. For the first time in ages, Sookie meets Barry The Bellboy, the only other telepath she knows. Barry is now employed by vampires in a similar capacity as Sookie.

From the outset, there’s weirdness. There are deaths, and it’s clear that someone’s trying to sabotage the summit. Sophie-Anne’s due to be tried for the death of her vampire husband, and Sookie’s an important part of her defense. The Arkansas vampires (or what’s left of them) are keen to see Sophie Anne punished, even though she wasn’t responsible for the killing of Peter Threadgil.

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Stieg Larsson – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Book review

I don’t know about you, but everybody in our immediate circle is raving about Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. The abiding impression I’m being given is that a shining light in the genre of crime fiction wrote three amazing books, then died before he could see the impact of his work.

It’s perhaps arguable that Larsson’s trilogy shot to such heady heights because of his death and some smart marketing on the part of the publisher. Nevertheless, who are we to argue with the massive commercial success that the books have achieved recently?

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Some trivia: The novel was originally titled Men Who Hate Women.

The Plot: Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist and publisher recently convicted of libel. Blomlvist is part-owner of Millennium, a financial magazine that frequently exposes corporate malpractice. He withdraws from work to save the face of the publication, but receives a tempting offer from an industrialist called Henrik Vanger to write a history of his family. The real purpose of Vanger’s request is to have Blomkvist investigate a murder in the family that happened over 30 years ago.

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Charlaine Harris – Definitely Dead – Book review

Sixth novel in the Sookie Stackhouse series, Definitelty Dead, sees Sookie head off on yet another trip. This time, it’s Louisiana, and she’s got the unpleasant task of winding up her cousin Hadley’s estate.

It’s here that Charlaine Harris makes her first major faux pas in the Southern Vampire Mysteries – she fails to tells us the backstory to Hadley becoming a vampire and being killed by a jealous lackey of the Queen of Louisiana. There’s a reason for this, of course. It was already covered in a short story Harris wrote. No comfort to me though, because I only found that out later, after I’d read the short story compilation A Touch Of Dead.

Nevertheless, the reader is wrong-footed by this obscure storyline developing, and I’d say it’s partially responsible for some of the negative reviews Definitely Dead has received.

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Stephanie Meyer – Breaking Dawn – Book review

Book cover of Stephanie Meyer's Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn is the fourth novel in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight ‘saga’, a series of books that have – in my opinion – sullied the good name of vampire literature. Earlier this year, I read the preceding three books in quick succession and found Bella Swan to be utterly devoid of charm or indeed anything that might possibly attract the affections of a vampire and a werewolf. No, I’m not a fan.

But once I begin a story, I have to finish it, so I picked up Breaking Dawn. The final chapter, etc. I’d been spoilered in advance when I stumbled upon an article about the book, but I thought the reviewer was being ludicrous. Bella gets pregnant, gets knocked up by Edward Cullen on their honeymoon and has a half-breed baby that threatens the Cullens’ way of life. “Pull the other one, dude.” I thought.

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Markus Zusak – The Book Thief – Book Review

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I finished another book set in a war zone – Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. It’s funny when there’s an unintentional synergy between books you’ve read – though Hosseini’s novel is set in Afghanistan and Zusak’s The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany, both share a similar scene – bombs descend on a residential street, and a young girl is left without parents.

That’s where I’ll end the comparisons though. Zusak’s novel is a different beast altogether, narrated as it is by Death himself.

What could inspire the formidable figure of Death to retell a story? Well, it’s the story of a young German girl, Liesel Meminger, who is being left by her mother with foster parents to look after her. On the way to Mölking, the town that would become her home, her brother dies on the train. The boy is hastily buried in a small town along the way and this presents Liesel her first opportunity to steal a book.

Yes. Liesel is the book thief, and The Grave Diggers Handbook is her first steal. Even though she can’t actually read. That part comes later.

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Charlaine Harris – Dead As A Doornail – Book review

The fifth book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries set, Dead As A Doornail sees [[Sookie Stackhouse]] even more drawn to the supernatural world. This time, however, she’s more concerned with the werewolf and shifter communities than the boring old vampires.

Why are the shapeshifters so important? Well, a lone gunman is sniping shots at shifters. Calvin Norris has been shot, somebody else has been killed. Even Sam Merlotte is put out of action when he gets shot in the leg. Just to up the stakes, Sookie discovers that her brother may be the prime suspect, since he recently became a ‘bitten’ were-panther. That’s right, dumb old Jason Stackhouse has become a half-were. And the worryingly inbred little community in Hotshot think it’s him, taking revenge for having been bitten by one of them in the first place. It’s a good theory, but incorrect. Jason loves being a shifter.

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Khaled Hosseini – A Thousand Splendid Suns – Book review

When I reviewed The Kite Runner a few weeks back, I promised a swift read and review of Khaled Hosseini’s follow-up novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. And here it is.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is Hosseini’s attempt to illustrate the lives of Afghan women in the past half-century. As he did with The Kite Runner, he takes us on a journey that centers on the lives of two very different Afghan women, but also encompasses the turbulent history of the country in that time and its effect on their lives.

The story starts with the life of Mariam, a 15 year old girl in Herat who lives with her bitter mother. She is the harami child of a local businessman, illegitimate because he had an affair with her mother, a servant in his house. He already had three wives. When Mariam steals away to visit her father one day, she’s refused entry to his house. By the time she returns home, her mother is hanging from a tree.

Now orphaned, her father is quick to marry her off to the first man who expresses an interest. Unfortunately, that man is Rasheed, a misogynistic bully many years her senior who takes her home and subjects her to a life of strict rules and introduces her to the burka. Things are passable at first, but as Mariam continues to miscarry Rasheed’s babies, he becomes increasingly abusive towards her.

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