Sunday, May 29, 2011

Burn bright by Marianne de Pierres

Retra has escaped from the only home she has ever known, catching a barge to the magical island of Ixion.  The life she leaves behind is one of heavily enforced rules, the life of a Seal, a people despised by even the other people of Grave.  Ixion is the island of legend, a place where people go to escape the life they live, a place where she hopes to find her missing brother Joel.  When Joel left her life went from bad to unbearable, and even the adventurous trip to Ixion can not stop her attempts to find him.  But things are not what Retra expected on the island, and she soon finds herself caught between worlds, between ideas, and between factions.  What are the dangers that lurk in the shadows of the island, and what is the whispering voice that seems to sound in her ears when no one else is around, words that seem to speak to her soul.  Even with the attention of one of the Ripers, Retra is not safe from the dangers that hide in the eternal night of Ixion.

I picked this book up because it came with high praise - and was almost tempted to put it down again when I saw it was compared to Twilight (and as most people know I am not a big fan of Twilight).  However, I was really impressed with this book, and hope that the next book in the series is not far away as it was thoroughly enjoyable.  Retra is a complex character, and the world she lives in is just as complex, with a supporting cast that is fully realised and fully involved in the plot.  There are times when I stumbled and wondered if I had missed somthing - but that may have just been because I was reading when I was tired.  This is a great read and doesn't have the same old, same old that other "vampire" novels have - not that this really classes as a vampire novel, but more books in the series may make a more "vampire" feel to the series.

If you like this book then try:
  • Blood and chocolate by Annette Curtis Klaus
  • Tinker by Wen Spencer

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thirteen days to midnight by Patrick Carman

Jacob Fielding is not your average teenager for several reasons - the main one being that when he tells someone that they are indestructible  they become indestructible   He didn't know he could transfer the power to be indestructible, to be immortal, until he passes it along by accident.  That simple act starts a chain of events that no one is prepared for - not Jacob, not his best friend Milo, and not the new girl at school.  As the days pass and they experiment with the power, Jacob begins to feel that there is something dark and dangerous lurking under the surface, something that he is not quite getting.  When he learns the truth about his power he begins a race against time to save himself, his friends, and maybe even his soul.

This is an interesting read, if for no other reason than it asks the question - if you could have any super power in the world, what would it be?  Jacob appears to be an ordinary teenager living with a priest after the tragic death of his guardian in a car accident.  His best friend Milo is your average best friend - nothing special to look at, has a big mouth that gets him into trouble, and has two out-there parents who run a bookstore that specialises in obscure sci-fi and fantasy.  Into this picture comes the unbelievably perfect Ophelia (just call her Oh) and that is the start of the real story. 

Jacob has been given the gift of invincibility - he can't die when he is shot, stabbed, hit by a car, nothing can kill him.  By mistake he finds out that he can pass the power on to someone else and then call it back.  Oh believes they should use the power to save lives, and at first it seems like a solid plan - until they have to make choices about who should live and who should die.  This could have come off as a preachy book, preaching right and wrong, who gets to live, who gets to die - and even could have been mistaken for a philosophy text or religious studies textbook.  What you actually get is a gripping read that keeps you guessing about what is really happening till the last few chapters, and by then you don't care that you may have figured out what is happening because the story drags you along to the satisfying conclusion. 

If you enjoyed this book then try:
  • Out of sight, out of mind by Marilyn Kaye
  • Numbers by Rachel Ward
  • Finding the fox by Ali Sparkes
  • Wolf brother by Michelle Paver

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The hidden gallery by Maryrose Wood

The hidden gallery is the second book in the Incorrigible children of Ashton Place series and continues on from where The mysterious howling left off.  For those of you who have never heard of this series, the Incorrigble children are three siblings who were found running wild in the woods by Lord Ashton.  Penelope Lumley becomes their governess in the first book after she graduates from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females.

In this enjoyable sequel Penelope and her charges find themselves in London, after Lady Constance Ashton decides to relocate to London rather than allow Penelope to travel to London by herself.  From the start the trip seems shrouded in the risk of disaster, and in a short space of time Penelope finds herself surrounded by some mysterious characters, and some that seem like they are up to no good.  While the household rocks and rolls with the whims and whines of Lady Constance, Penelope finds herself caught in a tangled web of mystery and uncertainties.

This is the second book in the series and continues strongly from the previous book.  Penelope is a charming and resourceful young woman, and the Incorrigibles seem to attract attention of all sorts (not always the right kind).  At first this series seemed like it was a bit of a ripoff of the Series of unfortunate events, but the Incorrigible children is at this point a better series and I look forward to seeing how this series develops as there are some ideas tickling at the back of my mind about where this series is heading, but we will see what happens.

If you enjoy this book then try:
  • The bad beginning by Lemony Snicket
  • The children of Green Knowe by L.M.Boston
  • Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Argus by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Andrea Wesson.

Just a quick review so Brilla doesn't feel lonely :).

Sally’s class are raising chicks, but her chick, Argus, is different to the others. WAY different… like green-and-scaly and growing-really-fast and eating-other-chicks different.
What is so much fun about this tale of difference, acceptances and love, is that it is never, ever stated WHAT Argus is. He’s just a very different chick.
I love the teacher, Mrs Henshaw. What a cool teacher! Unflappable.
The illustrations, done in watercolour and ink, are appealing.
*Sigh* if only all picture books were this adorable.

If you like this book try:
  • Edwina, the dinosaur who didn’t know she was extinct by Mo Willems.
  • George and the dragon by Chris Wormell.
  • Tadpole’s promise by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross.
  • The monster at the end of this book by Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin.
  • Your pal Mo Willems presents Leonardo the terrible monster by Mo Willems.

Reviewed by Thalia.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Circle of fire by S.M. Hall

Maya Brown is 15 years old, intelligent, athletic - and the adopted daughter of Pam, one of the UK's top intelligence agents.  Driven into hiding because of a kidnap threat. Maya and Pam are trying to live normal lives while security agents shadow their every move and try and protect them.  Pam is on a task force to prevent an attack by Muslim extremists, and her work has brought her into conflict with an emerging group that has big plans for the UK and for Europe.  When Pam is kidnapped, Maya feels frustrated and angry that no one is listening to her, so she breaks away from the protection of the security agents and her mothers agency.  Her plan is simple - rescue her mother and stop the bad guys.  Facing danger at every turn, Maya has to act quickly and be willing to take risks, including risking her own life.

This is the first book in a new series that seems to be somewhat daring on the part of the author.  Using Muslims, and extremists in particular, seems a very bold move - one that seems almost designed to inflame people's opinions.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author made no judgements and told a well thought out story, that includes elements of Muslim culture and Muslim extremists, but does not use gratuitous, in-your-face views.  Maya is a believable heroine, and she does not rely on gadgets or the support of adults and secret agents.  The story feels very real, and Maya is easy to relate to and I look forward to reading more books in this series if the author can keep up the pace.

If you like this book then try:
  • Deep end by Sam Hutton
  • Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
  • The recruit by Robert Muchamore

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Dexter is a cold, calculated killer who kills without remorse and with an attention to detail that makes you shudder - but he is also one of the good guys.  When his foster father discovered that there was a monster lurking in the mind of his foster son, Harry schooled Dexter and taught him to hunt other people like him - other killers.  Years later, Dexter still lives by the code of Harry, hunting down the monsters of Miami and dealing with them one by one, satisfying Harry's sense of justice, and satisfying the Dark Passenger that lurks inside his mind.  He is careful about his targets and plans everything in advance, down to the smallest detail, and he has never been caught. 

But a new serial killer has entered Miami, a killer who seems to call to Dexter, who brings out the curious and playful side of the Dark Passenger.  Dexter is curious and cautious, this new killer intrigues him and he wants to know more, but there is also danger - some people already suspect that he is different, fake, pretending to be human.  If only they knew how right they were, that the friendly Dexter they know is a mask for the killer that lurks underneath.

This is the second time I have picked up this book - the first time was when the first series of the TV show came out and I read only a few pages before giving up.  Seeing it a second time made me reconsider and I am glad I did because it was a damn good read.  Dexter is a great character, and as the novel is told from his perspective you get amazing insight into the way his mind works.  You might expect this to be a gory novel, but it is surprisingly lacking in gore, what you get instead is a gripping read that keeps you guessing from beginning to end - although knowing there is more than one novel in the series kind of ruins some of the suspense.  A fantastic read and I can't wait for to read the next book in the series once I have cleared some room on my reading shelf.

If you like this book then try:
  • I am not a serial killer by Dan Wells
  • Violence 101 by Denis Wright
  • Level 26: Dark origins by Anthony E. Zuiker and Duane Swierczynski

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Clarity by Kim Harrington

Clarity "Clare" Fern is psychic - along with the rest of her family.  Clare can see things from the past from a persons point of view when she touches something they have touched, her brother Perry is a medium who can talk to spirits, and their mother is a telepath (which makes it really hard to keep secrets from her).  To the tourists in their home town of Eastport they are a tourist attraction, a fun diversion where the Fern family tells them things from their past and maybe even connect them to friends and relatives they have lost.  For the locals, particularly the local high school kids, Clare is a freak to be teased and tormented.  When a murder occurs in their close knit community, Clare finds herself working with the Mayor's son, and the new detectives son to solve the murder - unofficially of course.

This book was a lot "lighter" than I was expecting.  I have read other books that seem to cover this idea in more depth and with more "grit" - but this was still an enjoyable read.  Clare is an interesting character and one of the cool things about her world is that the psychic abilities of Clare and her family seem real - based on facts and laws that govern what they can do and what they can achieve.  The story seems to unfold easily, starting with a dramatic glimpse of the present before diving into events of the past few days before launching back into the present and the big conclusion. 

Overall this was an enjoyable read and I look forward to future books from this author.  She has written a book that is fresh and free from the usual cliches, and has managed to avoid writing a predictable book.  Harrington kept up a good pace throughout the story, and the last few chapters passed in a blur as I rushed towards the end to see how the book was going to end.

If you like this book then try:
  • Legacy of lies by Elizabeth Chandler
  • Other by Karen Kincy
  • Jinx by Meg Cabot
  • Deception: Haunting Emma by Lee Nichols
  • Legacies by Mercedes Lackey

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Daniel X: the manga by James Patterson with Michael Ledwidge

This is the manga-ised version of the first book in the Daniel X series, and while I am not usually a fan of turning books into graphic novels because it always seems like it is just an attempt to make more money, that is not the case this time.  With these graphic novels (there are also graphic novels based on the Witch & Wizard and the Maximum Ride series) I don't get that same feeling, and it may partly be because James Patterson is such a supporter of encouraging children and young adults to read - and it doesn't matter what they are reading. 

One of my favourite reading philosophies is that reading is reading and should be encouraged.  If your child, teenager, husband, whatever is reading then encourage them - it doesn't matter if it is high literature, a graphic novel, a magazine, cards from the latest fad of collectors cards, or even the back of a pack of biscuits it is still reading.  Daniel X is not high literature but it has been richly illustrated and brought to life, complimenting the book of the same name, and allowing more people to become engaged with this series. 

Daniel X lost his parents when he was only 3 years old, watching them die at the hands of an alien known as The Prayer.  He escapes, but he also suddenly finds himself on his own, The List his only possession.  Fast forward 12 years and Daniel is now a fully fledged alien hunter, tracking down and eliminating the aliens that populate The List - aliens that want to enslave, eat, or eliminate the people of Earth.  Daniel is moving up the list and is about to take on Number 6 - but is he biting off more than he can chew?  I won't say anymore, but you can easily loose yourself in this interesting trwist on the aliens-amongst-us science fiction.

If you liked this graphic novel then try:
  • Maximum ride: the manga by James Patterson
  • Witch & Wizard: Battle for Shadowland by James Patterson

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Numbers by Rachel Ward

Jem is a foster kid, living with the label of orphan after her mother died of a drug overdose when she was a child, and she never knew who her father was.  She doesn't do well at school, she doesn't seem to fit in with her foster family, and a dark secret keeps her from connecting with the people around her.  Jem can see numbers when she looks people in the eye, and it's not just any number, its the date that they are going to die.  She has always seen the numbers, even as a small child, but it wasn't until her mother died that she finally figured out what the numbers were - date of death. 

Now Jem is 15 and living with an okay foster mother, but she is on the fringes and alone - until she makes a connection with Spider, another social outcast.  When she sees a group of people with the same number Jem panics and drags Spider away, just before a terrible tragedy strikes, and now they are on the run from the police and hiding from the world around them.  Jem is spinning rapidly out of control, caught up in Spider's contagious energy and drive, as they run towards a goal that one of them may never reach.

I loved this book, and kept sneaking every chance I could to read it so that I could read it quickly and see what happens.  Jem is a wonderful character, full of flaws and all the other things that make her so human.  Spider is like so many young people I know, he sees what he thinks his future will be and wants to change it - not knowing that Jem already knows the date of his death and is desperate to change it.  The world they live in is gritty and real, the people around them are fleshed out and feel like they live and breathe - people that you might find walking down the street or wagging from school down at the local park.  The only thing that took getting used to was the amount of swearing - but again, it was not gratuitous swearing, it was real language that the people lived and breathed.

I'm already waiting for book two (even though there are other books on my shelf that I should be reading first) and hope that the series stays strong.

If you like this book then try:
  • Vilolet eyes by Nicole Luiken
  • Gifted touch by Melinda Metz
  • Shadowland by Meg Cabot (Jenny Carroll)
  • When lightning strikes by Meg Cabot (Jenny Carroll)

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The dragon of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen

Calen, the mage's apprentice is not the best student in the world, and he always seems to be fumbling his way through his studies and failing to meet his masters expectations.  Meg is a princess from a family of girls who hides a rapidly growing baby dragon in the nearby forest.  They live very different lives, but in the lead up to a royal wedding, Calen and Meg meet and shortly afterwards find themselves facing a dangerous enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy the kingdom of Trelian - starting with Meg, her sister, and the rest of the royal family.  The only way to stop this enemy is for Meg and Calen to work together, and for Calen to master the skills of magic that seem to have elluded him until now.

This is the first book in a new series from Michelle Knudsen, who is best known for her picture books like The library lion.  As soon as I finished it I was online trying to find out when the next book in the series is due to be published.  The world of Trelian is well thought out and contains all the elements you want in a good fantasy, without the cliches that normally choke a novel like this.  Calen is not a terribly enthusiastic student, yet he develops his skills and abilities in a logical way.  Meg is a feisty princess who is not afraid to do what she wants, but she also balances that with the needs of her family and the rest of Trelian.  Her dragon friend is also well thought out, with the fact that he is still a baby realised fully, and he too has to grow into his skills. 

If you enjoy a good solid fantasy series that feels like it could be real world somewhere then try The dragon of Trelian.  It is a fantastic debut novel, and with high quality writing, and a thoroughly enjoyable world filled with likeable heroes, I can only hope that Michelle Knudsen keeps writing in this genre for many years to come.

If you like this book then try:
  • Wolf brother by Michelle Paver
  • Warriors: Into the wild by Erin Hunter
  • Alanna the first adventure by Tamora Pierce
  • Into the land of the unicorn by Bruce Coville

Reviewed by Brilla