Tag Archives: 5star

the black ice

The Black Ice (Harry Bosch #2) by Michael Connelly

From Goodreads:

Narcotics office Cal Moore’s orders were to look into the city’s latest drug killing. Instead, he ends up in a motel room with a fatal bullet wound to the head and a suicide note stuffed in his back pocket.

Working the case, LAPD detective Harry Bosch is reminded of the primal police rule he learned long ago: don’t look for the facts, but the glue that holds them together.

Soon Harry’s making some very dangerous connections, starting with a dead cop and leading to a bloody string of murders that wind from Hollywood Boulevard to the back alleys south of the border. Now this battle-scarred veteran will find himself in the centre of a complex and deadly game – one in which he may be the next and likeliest victim.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Loved this, it’s Bosch at his best, fighting hard to get to the truth and giving the finger to the brass on the way. The author really builds Harry here as the lone wolf but also betrays his lonely side through his attraction to two different women. His back story is filled in quite significantly and we get to know the man behind the man.

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journeys north: the pacific crest trail

Journeys North: The Pacific Crest Trail by Barney Scout Mann

From Audible:

In Journeys North, legendary trail angel, thru hiker, and former PCTA board member Barney Scout Mann spins a compelling tale of six hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007 as they walk from Mexico to Canada. This ensemble story unfolds as these half-dozen hikers – including Barney and his wife, Sandy – trod north, slowly forming relationships and revealing their deepest secrets and aspirations. They face a once-in-a-generation drought and early severe winter storms that test their will in this bare-knuckled adventure. In fact, only a third of all the hikers who set out on the trail that year would finish.

As the group approaches Canada, a storm rages. How will these very different hikers, ranging in age, gender, and background, respond to the hardship and suffering ahead of them? Can they all make the final 60-mile push through freezing temperatures, sleet, and snow, or will some reach their breaking point?

Journeys North is a story of grit, compassion, and the relationships people forge when they strive toward a common goal.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I absolutely loved this, easily the best  audiobook I’ve listened to so far. Really well written and excellently narrated but it’s the story that makes it special.

Most thru-hike stories focus on the author, their personal story and the people they meet along the way. This one gives the other five stories equal merit and this makes it unique.

Scout seems to be a very special person and I really enjoyed his take on the PCT but also his insights into the lives of the friends he made along the way. It’s obvious that much of the information was provided by them, rather than just observations, which points to the close relationship he had with each one.

A truly inspirational story of resilience, determination and the strength of humanity.

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the lincoln highway

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

From Goodreads:

In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head west where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future.

Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’s third novel will satisfy fans of his multi-layered literary styling while providing them an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters, and themes.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I loved this book! It’s completely different from anything I normally read and written in a very formal, old fashioned manner of speech. Once I got used to that (pretty quickly to be honest) it added to the read.

The four main boys plus Sally are brilliant characters, each one so different yet work so well together. The array of supporting characters are also well rounded and easy to keep in your head. I hate when too many characters lead to confusion but not in this case.

Great story, great characters, great book.

Shout out to Rootchopper for bringing it to my attention.

the late show

The Late Show (Renée Ballard #1) by Michael Connelly

From Goodreads:

Renée Ballard works the night shift in Hollywood, beginning many investigations but finishing none as each morning she turns her cases over to day shift detectives. A once up-and-coming detective, she’s been given this beat as punishment after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor.

But one night she catches two cases she doesn’t want to part with: the brutal beating of a prostitute left for dead in a parking lot and the killing of a young woman in a nightclub shooting. Ballard is determined not to give up at dawn. Against orders and her own partner’s wishes, she works both cases by day while maintaining her shift by night. As the cases entwine they pull her closer to her own demons and the reason she won’t give up her job no matter what the department throws at her.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is just superb! Michael Connelly is best known for his books about LA detective Harry Bosch set in the 80s and 90s. This is a brand new character for him and is set in the much more modern mid 2010s. For an author that spent so much time writing about men this is a female character and from a totally male perspective I think he’s done a fantastic job of creating a strong female character working in a male dominated culture that is tough enough to get the job done but doesn’t simply become a man with a woman’s name*. Contrast that with David Baldacci’s Atlee Pine character.

If you haven’t read any of Connelly’s books before then it’s possible to start here as it’s a completely different storyline from anything else he’s written although there does seem to be some crossover in later books.

I don’t want to spoil the story so I won’t give much detail and to be honest I don’t really know how to add to the summary above. Simply put Ballard is a brilliantly constructed character and Connelly’s writing is so good that I struggled to put this one down and read it through in just a couple of days.

*so difficult to write that without sounding patronising and sexist!

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daggerspell

Daggerspell (Deverry #1) by Katherine Kerr

From Goodreads:

Even as a young girl, Jill was a favorite of the magical, mysterious Wildfolk, who appeared to her from their invisible realm. Little did she know her extraordinary friends represented but a glimpse of a forgotten past and a fateful future. Four hundred years-and many lifetimes-ago, one selfish young lord caused the death of two innocent lovers. Then and there he vowed never to rest until he’d righted that wrong-and laid the foundation for the lives of Jill and all those whom she would hold dear: her father, the mercenary soldier Cullyn; the exiled berserker Rhodry Maelwaedd; and the ancient and powerful herbman Nevyn, all bound in a struggle against darkness. . . and a quest to fulfill the destinies determined centuries ago. Here in this newly revised edition comes the incredible novel that began one of the best-loved fantasy series in recent years–a tale of bold adventure and timeless love, perilous battle and pure magic. For long-standing fans of Deverry and those who have yet to experience this exciting series, Daggerspell is a rare and special treat.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I have been a bit nervous about reading this book and have been putting it off for a while. Following on from my recent review of “Into The Out Of” this was the series of books that convinced me in my mid-late teens that Fantasy was the genre for me. I read the first 3 stories many times and followed the series all the way to the 9th book before losing track of it for some reason. I see now that it’s up to 15 stories with more to come.

This book is where the whole story starts and for me it’s one of the perfect examples of the genre. It has everything you expect from an epic style story with fantastically developed characters and some of the best story writing I’ve come across.

I am delighted to find that it has also stood the test of time and it was an absolute delight to return to the world Katherine Kerr has created and to immerse myself in the complex story of reincarnation and magic set in a very familiar yet wonderfully different medieval Celtic society.

If you have any interest at all in the Fantasy genre then make sure you read this book!

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wild

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Read by Laurel Lefkow

From Audible:

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an 1100-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe and built her back up again. At 22, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. After her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State – alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than an idea: vague, outlandish, and full of promise. But it was a promise of piecing together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces rattlesnakes and bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and intense loneliness of the trail.

Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is an excellent story! The summary above tells you enough about Cheryl’s life that she self-destructed after her Mother’s death but she writes a very eloquent and honest story about the details and what walking the PCT meant for her. I loved how she mixed in her past life story with the PCT story, it gave so much more depth to it all. This isn’t really a story about the PCT. It does provide a lot of details of the walk itself but it’s more a personal journey set on the PCT.

The narrator is also excellent. I still struggle a little with the convention of imitating voices and accents for characters but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she tells this story with warmth and passion as much as if it was her own story.

Stop reading this review and go listen to the book!

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fool’s fate

Fool’s Fate (Tawny Man Trilogy #3) by Robin Hobb

From Goodreads:

The triumphant conclusion to the Tawny Man trilogy, from the author of the bestselling Farseer and Liveship Traders trilogies. The moving end to the tale of the Farseers, in which kingdoms must stand or fall on the beat of a dragon’s wings, or a Fool’s heart. A small and sadly untried coterie – the old assassin Chade, the serving-boy Thick, Prince Dutiful, and his reluctant Skillmaster, Fitz – sail towards the distant island of Aslevjal. There they must fulfil the Narcheska’s challenge to her betrothed: to lay the head of the dragon Icefyre, whom legends tell is buried there deep beneath the ice, upon her hearth. Only with the completion of this quest can the marriage proceed, and the resulting alliance signal an end to war between the two kingdoms. It is not a happy ship: tensions between the folk of the Six Duchies and their traditional enemies, the Outislanders, lie just beneath the surface. Thick is constantly ill, and his random but powerful Skilling has taken on a dark and menacing tone, while Chade’s fascination with the Skill is growing to the point of obsession. Having ensured that his beloved friend the Fool is safely left behind in Buckkeep, Fitz is guilt-stricken; but he is determined to keep his fate at bay, since prophecy foretells the Fool’s death if he ever sets foot on the isle of the black dragon. But as their ship draws in towards Aslevjal a lone figure awaits them…

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Robin Hobb is without a doubt one of the very best fantasy fiction authors that I have read. The fantasy world that she has created is outstanding and the stories that she has created are simply wonderful to read. She builds the stories around a small number of central characters but creates detailed supporting characters that manage to bring depth and understanding without the reader getting lost in the detail.

Over three series she has also managed to create three separate but interlinked stories and bring them all together in this final book to a hugely enjoyable conclusion. There is a huge amount of sadness throughout this final book. Fitz definitely does not have an easy life nor does he make it any easier for himself. There is a lot of loss and strife for him in this final installment but there is also a very emotional and satisfying conclusion. It is one of the very few endings that provoked a genuine emotional response from me. That is incredibly difficult to do with a book and shows Robb’s skill in creating a character that you really get to know and become attached to.

The book finishes as an end. It feels like the author intended to leave the story here but there are two further series that I haven’t read and have seen mixed reviews on. With such a perfect conclusion to this story I’m in two minds whether to carry on or just leave it here. We’ll see…..

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the golden fool

The Golden Fool (Tawny Man Trilogy #2) by Robin Hobb

From Goodreads:

Prince Dutiful has been rescued from his Piebald kidnappers and the court has resumed its normal rhythms. But for FitzChivalry Farseer, a return to isolation is impossible. Though gutted by the loss of his wolf bondmate, Nighteyes, Fitz must take up residence at Buckkeep and resume his tasks as Chade’s apprentice assassin. Posing as Tom Badgerlock, bodyguard to Lord Golden, FitzChivalry becomes the eyes and ears behind the walls. And with his old mentor failing visibly, Fitz is forced to take on more burdens as he attempts to guide a kingdom straying closer to civil strife each day.

The problems are legion. Prince Dutiful’s betrothal to the Narcheska Elliania of the Out Islands is fraught with tension, and the Narcheska herself appears to be hiding an array of secrets. Then, amid Piebald threats and the increasing persecution of the Witted, FitzChivalry must ensure that no one betrays the Prince’s secret—a secret that could topple the Farseer throne: that he, like Fitz, possesses the dread “beast magic.”

Meanwhile, FitzChivalry must impart to the Prince his limited knowledge of the Skill: the hereditary and addictive magic of the Farseers. In the process, they discover within Buckkeep one who has a wild and powerful talent for it, and whose enmity for Fitz may have disastrous consequences for all.

Only Fitz’s enduring friendship with the Fool brings him any solace. But even that is shattered when unexpected visitors from Bingtown reveal devastating secrets from the Fool’s past. Now, bereft of support and adrift in intrigue, Fitz’s biggest challenge may be simply to survive the inescapable and violent path that fate has laid out for him.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

In some ways Fitz is still the same stubborn and headstrong youth even 20 years on. His situation in life and his dedication and duty to the throne put stresses and demands on him that make a normal life incredibly difficult. Despite this he tries to do the best for those around him and those he feels that he has a duty to but can’t help but screw it up through a mixture of pig headed stubbornness and attempting to protect others close to him. How many times can one man come so close to death?

There is a lot of sadness in this book for Fitz but the author’s style keeps it from being depressing. She brings you into Fitz’s life and makes you want him to win and succeed. His relationship with Starling, Hap, Jinna and to some extent Chade is hard to read but it’s the deterioration of his core friendship with the Fool that is the saddest by far.

This is setting the series up for the 3rd and final installment so you are left at the end with many unanswered questions and unfinished storylines but it just makes you want to go straight to the next rather than leaving you empty.

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servant of the empire

Servant Of The Empire (Empire Series #2) by Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts

From Goodreads:

Second in Feist & Wurts’ wonderful epic trilogy — one of the most successful fantasy collaborations of all time THE EMPIRE TRILOGY: BOOK II Nobody knows how to play the Game of the Council better than Mara of the Acoma. But when you’re surrounded by deadly rivals intent on toppling you at every turn, you need to be the best simply to survive!

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I very much enjoyed returning to this series when I read the first installment back in February. It was hugely enjoyable but despite the 5star review I felt there was something missing and that I had enjoyed it more when I read it years ago. I put it down to a combination of rose-tinted glasses and changing tastes over the years.

However, picking up this book again made it clear to me that this series improves as you go through it. This is an epic story. The setting, the characters and the storylines are all amazing. It’s a perfect example of two authors collaborating to bring out the absolute best in each other.

No matter what I say I won’t be able to describe how good this book is or how much I enjoyed it. Just go and read it but make sure that you start at the beginning.

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the man who cycled the world

The Man Who Cycled The World by Mark Beaumont

From Audible:

The inspiring story of one young man’s record-breaking solo cycle journey around the world.

On 15 February 2008, Mark Beaumont pedalled through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. 194 days and 17 hours previously, he had begun his attempt to circumnavigate the world in record time. Mark smashed the Guinness World Record by an astonishing 81 days. He had travelled more than 18,000 miles on his own through some of the harshest conditions one man and his bicycle can endure, camping wild at night and suffering from constant ailments.

The Man Who Cycled the World is the story not just of that amazing achievement but of the events that turned Mark Beaumont into the man he is today. From the early years of his free-spirited childhood in the Scottish countryside to present day, he has been equally determined not to settle for an average existence but to break free and follow his dreams.

Mark Beaumont grew up in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands. When he was 12, he cycled across Scotland, then a few years later, completed the 1,000 mile solo ride across Britain from John O’Groats to Land’s End. His next long-distance ride took him the length of Italy, a journey of 1,336 miles, helping to raise £50,000 for charity. After graduating from Glasgow University, and having also qualified as a professional ski instructor, he decided against a conventional career and devoted himself full-time to raising money for his endurance adventures. 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was brilliant! Hands down the best audiobook so far. It’s an absolutely amazing story of endurance and perseverance written in a very humble and unassuming manner. This feels like a very honest story. He has no arrogance about his abilities and conveys his nerves and worries. He revels in his successes but also describes the many low points. Having the story written and read by the guy that actually completed the expedition gives it a sense of realism. He also eloquently conveys his feelings at the time. Listening to him you can almost feel him relieving the experiences all over again.

I was amazed by how little formal training he did (although I definitely think he was already a very fit guy) and how little preparation was completed in some ways. His journey in Australia and America seemed particularly haphazard and he admits himself that he hardly even considered the final leg through Portugal and Spain. Also how inexperienced his Mum was and in such a critical role.

I found the story quite emotional at times. I could feel his passionate dislike of the Pakistani police escorts and their treatment of him yet also his delight with the Madrid police and his final goodbye to the main contact. I also found the last couple of days very emotional, especially that last section into Paris and meeting his family again.

Another interesting aspect was his difficulty staying focused after a rest day and getting back in the zone. This was most evident on the American leg when he decided not to stay overnight with prearranged contacts when he had opportunities almost every night. He felt that it would hamper his focus and drive to have company every night. It really enforced for me the importance of mental strength for endurance athletes. It also explains the almost selfish and self-centred approach that they have to take.

The version I listened to had a chapter at the very end telling the story from his Mum, Una’s point of view. At first I didn’t like this. Mark is a much more accomplished reader and Una seemed nervous and hesitant. However, after a short while I found her perspective interesting and overall that it added to the story.

I obviously found this interesting from the aspect of a cyclist but definitely feel it’s worth reading or listening to for anyone interested in endurance sports, expedition or adventure.

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