Monday, August 22, 2011

Tighter by Adele Griffin

Jamie has been shipped off to the isolated island of Little Bly to work as an au pair for the summer.  Her mother says it will be good for her, that things will change for the better once she is away from home and out on her own.  On the way out the door Jamie grabs an emergency supply of pills from the house - painkillers, sleeping pills, anything that will help her get through the pain of her old back injury, and give her a buzz or dulling effect to get through the day.  Once she is on the island and meets her new charge Isa, things look like they will be okay, but there is something going on inside the house.  The au pair from the year before died, and au pair who looked a lot like Jamie, and the ghost of her boyfriend seems to be haunting the house and Jamie.  Will Jamie be able to fit in with the other kids on the island, will her summer be ruined, will she find some of the answers she has been looking for?

This was an unusual story that seemed to be heading one way, and then seemed to head another way, before ending up somewhere else entirely.  It also seemed a little unbalanced with a middle that is dense with plot and "meaning" before moving onto and ending that was a little blah really, an ending that was satisfying on one level but also left me a little wanting.  Although it was not the perfect read, it was still an enjoyable read that would perhaps have been a little better if it had been a few dozen pages shorter.  A good read if you are looking for something dark and dramatic, but there are other books out there that perhaps do the job a little better.

If you like this book then try:
  • Miles from ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams
  • Token of darkness by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
  • Gifted touch by Melinda Metz
  • Love you to death by Meg Cabot
  • Legacy of lies by Elizabeth Chandler
  • Clarity by Kim Harrington

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Museum of thieves by Lian Tanner

The children of Jewel are kept safe by their parents and the Blessed Guardians - kept safe from disease, from drowning, and from living.  Each child wears a guardchain that connects them to their parents at home, the Blessed Guardians when they are out, and to their beds at night.  On Seperation Day the chains are removed, and the children are free to move around by themselves, something that used to happen at 16 but the present Protector has decided that children as young as 12 can be freed from their guardchain.  Goldie Roth has waited forever to be freed from her guardchain, and when the moment finally arrives and is cruelly stolen away she takes matters into her own hands and escapes into the city. 

Her escape is just the beginning, she soon finds herself tangled in the fates of the mysterious Museum of Dunt, a old and disturbing building that hides a terrible secret.  With the city of Jewel in danger from the inside, and the outside, Goldie must learn the lessons she is being taught quickly because this is no time for mistakes.  A dark force is moving against the city of Jewel, and Goldie and the strange boy Toadspit may be the only hope for a city where children are protected to the point of being ignored, and where one of the city's most trusted people may be the downfall of them all.

This was a fascinating read, not only because the characters are so interesting, but also because it is such an unusual concept to work with - a museum that is more than it appears, and that has a life and will of its own.  Goldie is a charming young heroine, and her offsider Toadspit is so unlikeable at times that you can't help but like him.  The adults are a mix of helpers, hinderers, and downright nasty - the perfect backdrop for Goldie and Toadspit to become true heroes. 

In the beginning it took a little while to settle into the rhythm of the story because the concept of children chained together is just so foreign, but after a while the story sucks you in and refuses to let go.  One of the best things about this story is that it will appeal equally to boys and girls, children who love fantasy and adventure, and will appeal to children who like to read for themselves and for families who like to read stories aloud together.  A brilliant read and I can't wait for the next book in the series and the next twist in the tale.

If you like this book then try:
  • The star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson
  • Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
  • Stone heart by Charlie Fletcher
  • Bartlett and the ice voyage by Odo Hirsch
  • Under the mountain by Maurice Gee
  • Into the wild by Erin Hunter
  • Finding the fox by Ali Sparkes
Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gabby & Gator by James Burks

Today's Goals:
  1. Get out of bed
  2. Take care of garden
  3. Watch ½ hour of television
  4. Practice the tuba
  5. Go swimming
  6. Collect bottles & cans for recycling
  7. Find someone who will accept me for who I am
Those are Gabby's goals - and #7 is particularly hard when you're bullied, and called 'Freak'. That is, until she meets Gator, who is also misunderstood.
Gator has a (nearly) life-long fear of water / toilets, and an appetite for dogs.
Gabby is into recycling and vegetarianism - and the tuba.
This is a wonderful graphic novel for older kids - say 8ish and up. There are villains and action and a growing friendship between the two misfits.
Completely adorable :)

If you like this you could try:
well, that's where I get stuck. There's nothing quite like it... so, what about:
  • There's a boy in the girls' bathroom by Louis Sachar.
  • Freak the mighty by Rodman Philbrick.
  • The Alvin Ho books by Lenore Look.
  • The Schwa was here by Neal Shusterman.

Reviewed by Thalia.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A true princess by Diane Zahler

Lilia was found floating down the river as a small child, and the life she has with Jorgen and his family is the only life she can remember.  She loves Jorgen as a father, and Kai and Karina like a real brother and sister, but nothing she does is good enough for Jorgens wife Ylva.  When Ylva wants to trade her as a servant to the miller in exchange for money and flour, Lilia decides to run away to the North, to try and find the family she has never known.  Joining her on her quest are Kai and Karina, but it is a quest that will lead them into danger.  When they stray into the Bitra Forest, Kai catches the attention of the beautiful and cruel Elf Kings Daughter who wants to keep him as a pet.  To gain his freedom Lilia strikes a dangerous bargain, she has just two weeks to find something that was lost long ago, something hidden in a local palace.  Can Lilia find the hidden treasure and save the only brother she has ever known?

This was a simple yet charming read, having all the elements of a classical fairytale (especially one little lumpy piece) while also having enough twists to keep readers interested in what will happen next.  Lilia is a lovable character, and Kai and Karina are the perfect supporting characters for her, adding a warmth and depth to the story that would be missing if it was just Lilia on her own.  I saw parts of the story coming from miles away, but as an adult I have a greater knowledge of traditional tales and fairytales.  For children in the 8 - 12 year age range that this book is aimed at, there should still be some surprises for them.  This is a lovely little read for older children too who struggle a little with their reading.

If you like this book then try:
  • Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda
  • The Halfmen of O by Maurice Gee
  • The secret prince by D. Anne Love
  • The star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson
  • Stolen children of Quentaris by Gary Crew
  • The lost castle by Michael Pryor
  • The familiars by Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Now you see her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Nina Bloom lives in New York and has done for nearly two decades, hiding from a past that she is not ready to face, and is definitely not ready for her teenage daughter to discover.  There is one secret that Nina keeps from her friends, her coworkers, and her daughter - most of her life is a complete fabrication, a lie built to protect herself from the dangers in her past.  Escaping from Miami as a young woman, Nina started over, creating a new life and new identity to keep herself and her unborn child safe.  Things have been working out well, until she discovers that an Innocent man has been charged with murders that he definitely didn't commit, and she knows he is innocent because one of the people he allegedly killed was her.  Heading back to Miami Nina is about to come face to face with her past in a collision that she may not survive.

I really enjoy reading James Patterson, and in particular the books he has been co-writing with Michael Ledwidge - they have a good chemistry that is lacking in some of the other co-authored works.  This was not the best book they have written together however, there are parts that just seem to fall a little flat, that seem almost too neat and good to be true.  It was a good story (one that I stayed up late to finish in one sitting) but I felt myself saying "yeah right" more than once.  This is a good page turning romp, and fits nicely with some of the other books by Patterson individually and Patterson with co-authors and while I enjoyed it immensely it wont be one I revisit any time soon.  Great read but it does leave you feeling like you have been left a little bit wanting, especially in places where you have a big build up and high expectations, only to have things sizzle instead of explode.

If you like this book then try:
  • Step on a crack by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Kiss the girls by James Patterson
  • Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeffry P. Lindsay
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • Swimsuit by James Patterson
  • The confession by John Grisham

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Thyla by Kate Gordon

Tessa has no idea who she is or where she came from - all she knows is that her name is Tessa and that she was found in the bush in Tasmania.  Some things come easily to memory, the fact her name is Tessa (definitely Tessa), she can speak, she can understand what others around her are saying (mostly), but she can't remember where she came from, or where the scars across her back came from.  With the support of a policewoman named Connolly, Tessa moves to a local private school where she quickly finds herself on the outside, outcast except for a few new friends who seem just as strange as she is.  One night she makes a startling discovery about her world, one which quickly unravels the mystery of her existence, but will it happen quickly enough to save her life and the lives of those around her?

This is an interesting book, starting in an unusual way that is almost off-putting, but in the end it is a breathless ride that is almost impossible to put down.  Told in the loose form of a journal, Tessa's story flows as if it were written, so when she makes a discovery about her past/present you discover it at the same time, making the story seem particularly real and vivid.  The characters around her are fleshed out only slightly in some cases, but again that adds to the realism of the story which is told firmly from Tessa's side, and if she doesn't know anything about some of the characters then how can she share that with Connolly (and the reader)? 

Set in Tasmania, Australia, the cast is small and intimate, and Kate Gordon has taken a fresh new approach to the idea of shapeshifters and what is essentially lycanthropy.  Telling too much here would potentially ruin some of the story for the reader, but let me just say that there is a promised sequel and I will be reading it as soon as I can get my hands on it.  Gordon has written a well crafted story here that is a real treat to read once you get used to the style it is written in.  Don't expect ruggedly handsome vampires or werewolves here in the style of Twilight, this is a real treasure in the minefield that is supernatural teen fiction at the moment.  Thyla is gripping and keeps you gripped in the story, and I hope that more people discover this novel so they too can enjoy the world of Tessa and the secrets that surrond her.

If you enjoy this book then try:
  • Night runner by Max Turner
  • Arrival by Chris Morphew
  • The demon trappers daughter by Jana Oliver
  • Burn bright by Marianne de Pierres
  • Subject seven by James A. Moore
  • Marked by P.C Cast and Kristin Cast

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan

Mary and her village live behind the safety of the fences that keep the Unconsecrated away from the living.  It is a dangerous existence, one breach of the fences and the whole village could be overrun, with those who fall rising again to join the rest of the Unconsecrated.  Their lives are carefully controlled by tradition, a belief in God, the protection of the Guardians, and the rules and guidance of the Sisterhood.  Mary has grown up with the stories her mother told, stories of far off places and a great ocean, places that she dreams of one day visiting. 

When her mother is infected and Mary allows her to join the Unconsecrated in the Forest of hands and teeth, Mary finds herself at the mercy of the Sisterhood.  Not content with her new life, Mary finds herself at odds with the most senior Sister, her questions causing problems and putting her in danger of meeting a terrible fate.  When the village is overrun it almost seems like a sign that they need to move on, move towards the ocean, but is the world beyond the forest really any different to what she already knows, or is Mary walking into more heartache and death?

This was an addictive read that keeps you turning pages to see how things end.  Mary is interesting and the world she lives in carries echoes of the past, as well as dropping hints that it is our future where they are living.  The other characters around Mary have depth and carry secrets of their own, thought at times some thoughts/actions don't seem to sit quite right, and at times the story does seem to falter or skip before picking up the pace again and moving forwards.  The world they live in is scary and you can feel the tension of the danger that lurks beyond the fence, that it feels very real when things go wrong. 

Don't be fooled though, this is definitely a zombie book for the girls rather than the boys, although there is a strong story there is a little too much romance and feelings for most boys who love zombie books to really get into the story.  At times there are flashes of an epic adventure that will have wider appeal, and then you get a moment of intense emotion or drama that would put most boys off.  It will be interesting to see how the series develops through the next two books.

If you like this book then try:
  • Enclave by Ann Aguire
  • Rot and ruin by Jonathan Maberry
  • The hunger games by Suzanne Collins
  • The crossing by Mandy Hager

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Yuck! That's not a monster! by Angela McAllister and Alison Edgson

Mr and Mrs Monster are the proud parents of three eggs that they can't wait to hatch.  Their first egg is a fine little monster with spikes and fangs, their second egg is another fine little monster with spines and warts - but their third little monster is not much of a monster at all, he's all pink and fluffy.  The first two little monsters are embarrased by their brother and want nothing to do with him, especially when he doesn't do all the things that little monsters are supposed to do.  But one day something happens that may just change their minds.

This is a delightful little book that will charm a lot of readers for the simple fact that Little Shock is absolutely adorable - he's the colour of candy floss with big blue eyes.  The story is fun and playful, and has just a dash of an "it's okay to be different" message.  A fun and entertaining read for all ages.

If you like this book then try:
  • Creepy monsters, sleepy monsters by Jane Yolen; illustrated by Kelly Murphy
  • Stomp by Jeanne Willis; illustrated by Paul Howard
  • The scariest monster in the world by Lee Weatherly and Algy Craig Hall
  • The monster at the end of this book by Jon Stone; illustrated by Michael Smollin

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, August 1, 2011

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield

Kendra is the survivor of childhood sexual abuse, abuse that left her unable to remember the face of her rapist.  With the help of her therapist Carolyn, Kendra is beginning to make connections, beginning to feel safer than she has in a while, but there is something that Kendra keeps hidden even from Carolyn - when the pain gets too much to bear, Kendra cuts herself.  Her arm is a map of her pain and emotional turmoil, a carefully hidden secret from the world.   At home her mother is falsely cheerful, waatching over Kendra like a mother hen, when she isn't busy making critical observations about Kendra's raw and emotional art.  Kendra's father is quiet and tormented, dealing with his own demons about failing to protect Kendra from the abuse and the lose of his job.  At school Kendra is beginning to make connections with another person, but are things what they seem?

This was a powerful and gritty novel that pulled no punches, and at times leaves you feeling distinctly uncomfortable, like you are intruding on something private.  Kendra is a strong voice for this novel, and unlike some of the books about cutting there is no hesitation about talking of the cutting, what it feels like, what it looks like, and the dangers that it can pose if not taken seriously.  The author's note explains some of the realism, as the author was herself a cutter.  This is not a book to be taken lightly, and if you have a friend that you think might be cutting then this book could go some way to helping you understand why they are cutting and some ideas about how you might be able to help them. 

At certain times the characters around Kendra seem a little flat and two-dimensional, but that suits to fact that Kendra is the centre of the novel.  And the end of the novel is somewhat ho-hum, but does provide a certain amount of satisfaction for the reader without being too far fetched.  If you think you cana handle the realism of this story them give it a go because it was an amazing read - thank you Cheryl Rainfield for not pulling punches or trying to sugar coat what is a very difficult topic.

If you like this book then try:
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Cut by Patricia McCormick
  • The lovely bones by Alice Sebold

Reviewed by Brilla