Thursday, July 28, 2011

Private London by James Patterson and Mark Pearson

Dan Carter is the head of Private International in London, and his team is the best that money can buy - they have a big budget, the best staff, and some of the best toys in the industry.  It's just as well they are though, because they are about to have everything go to custard in a very short space of time.  Hannah Shapiro is rich, fragile, and has been flown halfway round the world to study for her degree, and she is the responsibility of Dan and his team. 

When she is kidnapped the sole focus of Private London is to find her and bring her safely home.  They all hope it is a simple kidnap for ransom because there is another disturbing possibility - that she may have been killed by someone who is killing people and leaving the bodies mutilated and missing bits and pieces.  The cases could be linked, and that puts Dan Carter on a collision course with his ex-wife DI Kirsty Webb. 

This is the second installment in the Private series by James Patterson and co-authors - although this does not strictly need to be read after Private to be enjoyable.  As a Kiwi I kept smiling every time I saw the name Dan Carter as it made me think of one of our best known All Blacks, but apart from that this was quite a serious book from the start and jumps in with rather dramatic style.  

For some reason though I found this to be not quite so good as the first Private, there was a certain spark that was missing with the writing, a certain zing that I have come to associate with James Patterson novels and the ones that he writes with other writers.  Don't get me wrong, this was an enjoyable book, but there was something that made it seem almost more a thriller-by-numbers rather than the deftly written, page-turning reads that I have come to expect. 

Patterson has set high standards in the past and this book didn't quite make it to the usual level.  I hope there are more books in this series, and I hope that we get to see some more of the Private London team as the taste we have with this novel is somewhat addictive by the end, and I can't wait to see what happens with the characters as they develop.

If you like this book then try:
  • Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • Swimsuit by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • The survivors club by Lisa Gardner

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wither by Lauren Destefano

Rhine knew better, but she went anyway and ended up in the hands of the Gatherers - the men who capture young women and sell them off as unwilling brides, or to a worse fate if they fail to attract the attention of their potential future husbands.  Rhine had been living with her twin brother Rowan, working together to survive in a world where all the men die by the age of 25, and all the women die by the time they are 20.  It is a lonely world where everyone lives their life at an accelerated rate and orphans fill the streets when their parents die too soon. 

Rhine was strong when she was with Rowan, and she needs all that strength when she finds herself sold to become the bride of a wealthy man in a city far from home.  Her new home with her sister-wives is life in a guilded-cage, she has everything she could possibly want except for her freedom.  Her blossoming romance with one of the staff is the only thing that really seems to make life worthwhile - and then that is taken away too.  In a world where one  man controls all their lives, Rhine will strive to free herself from the shackles of her forced marriage and captivity - but at what cost?

This is the first book in the Chemical Garden Trilogy and it has been receiving very mixed reviews.  I have been reading a lot of dystopian novels lately (partly because it seems to be a VERY popular genre at the moment) and this was one of the better ones.  There are times when the story is uneven, moving from incredible depth and incredible storytelling, to moving over things quickly and lightly and almost as an after thought.  The world also at times seems to be a little too shallow, but that fits with the life that Rhine and her sister-wives and husband are living.  They are all captured in a glittering world where escape is impossible, and where the person who controls all their fates is a twisted old man who definitely has his own agenda. 

I enjoyed the story and look forward to the sequel Fever which is due for release in early 2012.  Don't go into this book expecting huge, earth shattering revelations and a story of love conquering all because you just won't get it.  Rhine is a deep character and you can see the changes in her over time, but there are times when it seems as though there is a little holding back, a little bit of the author not invested in the story that may put some readers off.  Overall a highly recommended read, but you have to read it at face value - but then that is the opinion of someone who is some way away from being a teenager, and as this book was written for teenagers rather than adults that is something to keep firmly in mind.

If you like this book then try:
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Matched by Ally Condie
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • XVI by Julia Karr

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Flawless by Lara Chapman

Sarah Burke is smart, talented, hard working, and has a rather large problem - her nose.  Her bestfriend Kristen is gorgeous, fun to be with, and seems to always be in the middle of the excitement.  On the first day of their senior year of high school a new guy walks into class and causes a ripple effect that will be felt through their friendship for months to come.  Rock is smart, good looking, and drawn to Kristen - oblivious to the fact that Sarah is falling in love with him.  Feeling insecure and wanting to impress him, Kristen asks Sarah to help her win Rock over, using Sarah's way with words to help her snare the man of her dreams.  Pushing aside her own feelings, Sarah helps her friend, but at what cost to all of them?

This was an interesting coming of age story because it doesn't go quite how you might expect.  Sarah is an interesting character, and there are some interesting side stories that blend into the main one making it more readable than it might have been just as a love triangle story.  Other novels have tackled the idea of a nose job or plastic surgery fixing things, but this one just seems a little more genuine, a little more down to earth than the others.  Kristen as a supporting character is very good, she could have come across as completely shallow and self-centred, but she comes across as real and fragile.  And Rock is just the right kind of perfect - good looking but not too good looking, and he has his flaws too.  Enjoyable read that will leave you feeling satisfied.

If you like this book then try:
  • Fix by Leslie Margolis
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Slant by Laura E. Williams

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Press here by Hervé Tullet.

One word: cute!
Two words: great fun!!
Three words: lots of laughs!!!
This picture book just encourages interaction between reader and listener. Press the yellow dot and things happen. Blow on the page and things happen. Every page requires the reader / listener - participant really - to do something. And you just have to turn the page and find out what your action has done to the dots.

If you like this one, try:
  • The monster at the end of this book by Jon Stone.
  • Shout! Shout it out! by Denise Fleming.
  • Who sank the boat by Pamela Allen.
  • Don't let the pigeon drive the bus by Mo Willems (and every other pigeon book).
~ Reviewed by Thalia.

Harry and the Dinosaurs first sleepover by Ian Whybrow and Adrian Reynolds

Harry and his bucketful of dinosaurs are heading off on their first sleepover at Jack's house, and it promises to be a really great night.  Nan has packed all of the clothes and bits and pieces he will need, and Harry has packed his toys and some things to do.  The dinosaurs are excited and so is Harry, especially when Jack's dad shows them the bats in the attic.  After a fun day Jack and Harry try to go to sleep, but it's not that easy - but Jack's dad has a solution.

This is one of the higely popular Harry and the Dinosaurs books which appeals to readers of all ages, but has the little boy part of the market firmly covered.  Harry is absolutely adorable, and his Dinosaurs are a bunch of little charmers who are absolutely brimful of charm.  Some of the things they get up to over the series is enough to make you cringe and/or laugh out loud, and I hope that Ian Whybrow has many more stories in him because this series will keep its charm for a very long time. 

If you like this book then try any of the other Harry and the Dinosaur books!

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Virals by Kathy Reichs

Victoria "Tory" Brennan is the great-niece of the world famous Dr. Temperance Brennan, the world famous forensic anthropologist who helps identify bodies and put crimes to rest.  They have only met once in the six months Tory has been living with her dad, but they hit it off straight away - after all Tory is as much a scientist as her famous relative.  Moving to remote and lonely Morris Island in South Carolina after the death of her mother, Tory is just settling into a routine with the father she never knew, and dealing with the wonders of going to a super preppy high school as a "charity case" when all hell breaks loose in her life. 

One night on Loggerhead Island, the island that belongs to the University where Tory's dad works, Tory and her three friends Ben, Hi, and Shelton are exposed to a strain of canine parvovirus that is about to jump the species barrier and make some rather drastic changes in their lives.  As if the exposure to the virus and the side effects are not enough, Tory and her friends have uncovered something that was supposed to remain buried, something that puts all their lives at risk.  They weren't meant to discover the body, they weren't meant to uncover a murder, and they definitely weren't meant to discover the identity of the killer. 

When I picked this up I was not sure what to expect, especially after seeing a review that upheld the value of the book in dripping sarcastic tones.  To begin with it felt ind of "heavy" seeming to get bogged down in the scientific detail of naming objects and items, rather than focusing on the story.  I don't know if you get used to it over time, or if the details blended more into the story as it moved along, but the story soon overtakes the nagging little details and jumps in full-force for a story that twists together the action/thriller/science fiction/fantasy genres into a neat little package of good reading. 

There are only a few series/authors that blend together these genres in this way - James Patterson with his Maximum Ride series is the most obvious, but there is also a certain amount of comparison with series by Anthony Horowitz, Malcolm Rose, and Joe Craig.  This was a fantastic read and although the 400+ pages was a bit of a commitment, like Patterson Reich's has chosen to use short, punchy chapters that make the action move at a fast pace.  This is obviously the first book in the series, and it will be interesting to see if the series keeps it momentum going, or if it burns itself out quite quickly. 

If you like this book then try:
  • Maximum ride: the angel experiment by James Patterson
  • Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
  • Jimmy Coates: killer by Joe Craig
  • Jordan Stryker: bionic agent by Malcolm Rose
  • Framed! by Malcolm Rose
  • The Frankenstein factory by A.J. Butcher

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Night runner by Max Turner

For most of his life Zack Thomson has lived in a mental hospital - afflicted by a disease that has left him allergic to sunlight and most foods except for the special strawberry milkshakes that Nurse Ophelia makes him everyday.  His world is stable (well as stable as it can get in a mental institution) and he has learnt to enjoy the quiet solitude of living in a world of night, a calm solitude that vanishes when a crazed man on a motorcylce crashes into the hospital and tells him to run.  The next few days are a confused jumble of crazy ideas, bad guys that he never knew existed, and secrets that could destroy his life and his sanity.  Could he really be a vampire, one of those mythology creatures that preys on humans and hides in the dark?  It all seems too goofy and B-grade movie to be true, but Zack is about to discover that there is more in the world than he has ever dreamed of, and if he is to learn more then he must figure out who the good guys are, no matter how hard that might be.

Night runner nearly ended up on the discard pile because it seemed to take too long to get going and because it just felt a little weird to begin with, like the author had started halfway down the first page and expected you to know what had come before.  This soon smoothed out and Night runner turned out to be a good little read - a little mystery, a little thriller, a little twist on the vampire mythology, and although this was in the horror section that was only due to the vampires angle rather than any real homage to the vampire blood and gore (of which there was surprisingly nothing).  It is not clear if there will be lots of other books in this series or if this is a shortlived series, but if you really enjoy a little light reading and enjoy someone with a little twist on the vampire mythology then you may enjoy this read as well.

If you like this book then try:
  • End of days by Max Turner
  • Glass houses by Rachel Caine
  • City of bones by Cassandra Clare
  • Burn bright by Marianne de Pierres
  • Thirteen days to midnight by Patrick Garman

Reviewed by Erika

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey

Menolly has come to the Harper's Hall, the one place on Pern where she dreamed of being, but thought she could never be because she was born a girl instead of a boy. It is a completely new world, and so many of the lessons she has learnt in her life have to be unlearnt if she is to fit into her new world and her new life.  Nothing is certain, some of the Masters seem to be determined that she has no place in the hall, no right to be there, a thought that appears to be shared by some of the Journeymen as well.  The girls she lives with as not sure what to make of her, and without the skills so many girls learn when they are fostered out with another family, Menolly soon finds herself at odds with some of her new room mates and the woman who runs the cottage. 

Through everything though, Menolly clings to her love her music, the idea that she can live in a world where music is accepted and encouraged - rather than met with scorn, ridicule, or a beating.  Continuing on from where Dragonsong left off, this is the conclusion to Menolly's amazing story and is a thoroughly engrossing read.  To say too much will ruin the surprises and charm of this shorter length novel from Anne McCaffrey - and every reader deserves the opportunity for the story to unravel at its own pace.  And once again I have to say that I wish fire lizards were real - although sometimes dogs and cats come as a close second.

If you like this book then try:
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
  • Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey
  • Crystal singer by Anne McCaffrey
  • Hex hall by Rachel Hawkins

Reviewed by Brilla

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

Menolly is the youngest child in a large family and is very much the black sheep of the family.  To her father, the Lord Holder of a busy seaside Hold, she is an embarrassment and a risk to the honour of her family.  To her mother she is a worrisome child who has ideas above her station, and she is too big and clumsy to be a real girl.  The reason for her shame and burden is that Menolly was the favourite of the Holds Harper, and during the last failing years of his life she helped to teach the children their lessons, and played music at night for the people of the Hold to sing to. 

When the old Harper dies Menolly's life changes for the worse, especially when a simple slip means she can no longer play her beloved music.  It is a dangerous time on her planet, Pern is once again facing the danger of Thread, a malignant and mindless threat that falls on her planet and consumes all organic matter it touches, multiplying and destroying in moments.  Their only saving grace are the dragons and dragonriders that protect the skies of Pern everytime that Thread falls.  When Menolly finds herself stranded far from home during Threadfall she thinks her life is over - but instead she finds that it is only just beginning.

This is one of my favourite books of all time - although in saying that I always have to read it with the companion volume of Dragonsinger.  Menolly is a lovely character who you can't help but cheer for as she faces down challenges as they are stacked up against her, never giving up even when everything says she should.  I try and re-read these books at least once a year and being stuck in bed with a nasty virus was the perfect opportunity to read them again. 

Written more as a novella, this is a much lighter book than some of Anne McCaffrey's other novels set in the Pern universe, but the sharp focus on Menolly means that the novel and its sequel are as rich and engaging as any of the other Pern novels.  There is some crossover with other Pern novels as well, and the two books as followed closely by Dragondrums which changes the focus to Piemur - one of the other characters from Menolly's time.  An engaging read from one of the masters of science fiction and fantasy - and like so many others (I am sure) this book made me want a fire lizard of my own so badly, so much easier to manage than a full sized dragon.

If you like this book then try:
  • Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey
  • Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey
  • Heart's blood by Jane Yolen
  • Joust by Mercedes Lackey
  • Black unicorn by Tanith Lee

Reviewed by Brilla

Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

Nora lives in a world of startling contrasts - the places she lives and the things she buys when she is shopping with her mother are pretty glossy, but one day she witnesses one of the horrendous terror attacks that seem to be happening more and more often. Waking from nightmares of one of the victims pushes Nora's mother to take her to the TFC for the first time - the Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic.  Through technological advances (and a magic little pill) Nora will be able to forgot the horrors of what she has seen, but at the clinic she sees a boy who encourages her to remember rather than forget, and Nora makes a decision that will change her life forever. 

Rather than swallowing the pill, she chooses to live with the memory, and the devastating memory that her mother shares as part of the process of visiting a TFC for the first time.  Now Nora is finding herself drawn towards Micah, the boy who told her not to swallow the pill, and his friend Winter.  Together the three of them come up with an idea that will change the lives and views of people around them - and place them at risk from the highest levels of the "terror organisation" that is wrecking havoc on their city.

This is yet another dystopian novel, and yet again this could easily have gone either way - either onto the discard pile after a few pages, or giving it a chance to get good.  I chose to keep going, even though I found the beginning and the format a little ho-hum, and I am glad I did because it very quickly turned into an interesting read.  It was not particularly in-depth, and it didn't have hugely fleshed out supporting characters, but given the way the story unfolds (as a confession of sorts from three young people) that makes sense and stays true to the story. 

It was a fun little read, and a made a nice change from some of the more intense things that I have been reading lately.  A sequel is promised and there is a website so readers can fall more deeply into the world of Nora and her family and friends.  Don't expect too much from this story and you won't be disappointed. Expect it to be detailed and indepth and meaningful and you will be disappointed.

If you like this book then try:
  • The walls have eyes by Clare B. Dunkle
  • The tunnels of Ferdinand by James Moloney
  • Fearless by Tim Lott
  • The declaration by Gemma Malley

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, July 8, 2011

Underground by Chris Morphew

Jordan, Luke, and Peter are being dragged further and further into the increasingly dangerous mystery that is Phoenix.  In the previous three books in this series, Chris Morphew has laid the foundations for a fantastic series that is gripping, fast paced, and populated with some dangerous and intriguing characters.  Without giving away too much of the previous three books in the series (for those who like to read things in order) - Luke returns to being the voice of the story, telling the story in his voice from his point of view (the POV changes for each book which is pretty cool).  Luke, Jordan, and Peter have finally made some progress with finding out what is happening behind, and beneath, the scenes in Phoenix.  New characters are revealed, along with new dangers and some of the secrets that have been tickling around the edges are finally revealed with startling results. 

This series just gets better and better, and it is one of the few series where to give away too many details here about the fourth book, may ruin some of the surprises in the previous books.  Like fellow young Australian author Jack Heath, Chris Morphew has a real feel for writing for teenagers - he doesn't talk down or dumb things down, he has a respect for his reader which sometimes seems missing from books written by authors who have maybe been a little too far away from their own teenage years.  I can't wait for 2012 and the promised last two books in the series.  Come on Chris, don't let us down, make the finale as gripping as the rest of the series and you wont leave any disappointed readers in your wake.

If you like this book then try:
  • Arrival by Chris Morphew
  • Tomorrow, when the war began by John Marsden
  • Survival by Chris Ryan
  • The lab by Jack Heath

Reviewed by Brilla

Unnatural issue by Mercedes Lackey

I am a happy fangirl! Yay for Lackey’s return to the Elemental Masters world… And yay for taking on Perrault's Donkeyskin. Donkeyskin isn’t the most comfortable tale to use – with its incest-theme. Lackey manages to side-step the incest – mostly – by making this a tale of a ‘fallen’ Earth Master who plans to use necromancy and his daughter’s body, to bring his wife back to life.

Suzanne, said daughter, has a lot of Earth magic herself – and has been tutored by good ole Puck / Robin Goodfellow. She knows enough to realise she really, really needs to escape her father – even though he’s just begun to notice her existence.
Escaping, she finds refuge – in disguise of course – with the Kerridges’, local gentry and mages. There she falls for Charles, their oldest son. Also staying on the estate are Water Master Peter Almsley and his servant, Garrick. They have been sent by Alderscroft, the Wizard of London, to hunt down a necromancer working in the area.

Although not the best in this series, Lackey fans – like me! – will welcome a return to this world. And, thank goodness!, a love interest for Peter Almsley (‘twin’ of Peter Scott’s, from The Serpent’s Shadow).
Fairytale retelling + gothic + historical + romance + fantasy + Lackey = WIN! But, only 4 stars of win, unfortunately. But,  4 star Lackey is still a good option for a great winter curl-up read.
If you like this book then try:
  • The woman in white by Wilkie Collins – classic Victorian gothic mystery.
  • Deerskin by Robin McKinley – also based on ‘Donkeyskin’.
  • Smoke thief by Shana Abe – Victorian/Edwardian fantasy setting.
  • Phoenix and ashes by Mercedes Lackey – my fav Elemental Masters book.
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman – fantasy romance.
  • Blood brothers by Nora Roberts – modern gothic fantasy romance.
  • Second sight – Victorian/Edwardian fantasy romance gothic tale.   

~Reviewed by Thalia.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Unthinkable by Shirley Duke

Omar Phillips is Bridgewater High's answer to a young Stephen King, his short stories posted on Facebook are a huge hit with his fellow students.  But suddenly what he writes is coming true, and he finds himself the subject of scrutiny from the cops, and to make matters worse all his old fans now shun him.  Can he solve the mystery of what is happening before he becomes a victim of his own imagination?

This was an extremely quick read, but it was also a real gem of a read, a treasure that was almost ignored because it just seemed so lame and cliched.  Omar and his world may be quickly sketched because of the short format, but you still live and breathe their world. 

A new treat for fans of Christopher Pike, R.L.Stine, and early Caroline B. Cooney.

Reviewed by Brilla