Thursday, October 27, 2011

Soul thief by Jana Oliver

***SPOILER*** alert - if you have not read the first book in the series then do not read this review as it has ***SPOILERS*** for the first book.

Riley managed to survive the attack on the Trappers, but now things are getting even more complicated.  Simon is giving her the cold shoulder while he tried to come to terms with the attack on the tabernacle and the ensuing slaughter, and he doesn't seem to understand that there are more things to think about than his narrow world view.  Her fathers disappearance is still a mystery, with no one claiming responsibility for the theft of his body, and all trails leading to a dead end.  Beck is being a controlling jerk and trying to get Riley to leave town, which may not be such a bad idea with the hunters arriving in town.  Riley has enenmies at every turn, and her allies may not be who she thinks they are.  The danger is building for Riley and everyone she loves - and it looks like a showdown is coming, a war to end all wars.

This is the second book in the Demon trappers series and Jana Oliver has once again delivered an engaging novel with a thoroughly engrossing story and entirely believable world.  Riley has continued to grow as a character, but she has also maintained the character flaws that make her entirely believable.  It is not clear how long this series will run, or how many books will be in the series, but Oliver has laid very good ground work for a long running series.

One of the best things about this series is that it is so genuine - too many authors dumb down storylines for teenagers or take the easy way out with the plotlines, but Oliver keeps the plot moving forwards and keeps the action tense (and real).  This is a series that will appeal to a wide audience, because although Riley is a teenager the world she inhabits is a very adult one, with danger around every corner, adult relationships, and having to make very adult decisions.  Hopefully this series doesn't over reach or try too hard and fail, because this could be the next Twilight reaching across a wide range of audiences and providing a new world for readers to enjoy for a long time.

If you like this book then try:
  • The black tattoo by Sam Enthoven
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Born at midnight by C.C. Hunter
  • Burn bright by Marianne de Pierres
  • Legacies by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill 

 Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Game runner by B.R. Collins

Rick is one of the lucky few in Undone, he lives in the sheltered environment of Crater, the biggest gameing company in Ingland.  It is a sheltered life where he is protected from the dangerous streets of Undone where gangs of feral children roam, and where the acid rain will poison and kill you if you spend time outside without the safety of a rain hood.  All day long he spends time in the tank running the Maze, the only game that really counts, the one that everyone is Undone would play if they had the chance - maybe even the whole world would play if they had the chance.  The world seems perfect and safe, until the night Daed asks him to enter the Maze and stop a player from reaching the end - that one request starts a spiral of terrifying events as Rick comes to realise that his world is not perfect, or safe, or secure.  Rick is on a race against time to figure out what is really happening, and to try and find a way to survive.

Dystopian novels for teenagers are a growing sensation, and they all seem to be looking for that little difference that will make their vision of the future stand out.  In many ways Game runner is a fresh voice in this genre, a different take on what is becoming a predictable formula.  Unlike some of the other dystopian novels this is a relatively quick read, building the vision quickly and then dragging you through the story at breakneck speed without any of the weighty prose or ensnaring plots that make some dystopian novels sooo long and complicated.  The detail is there, but it unfolds as part of the story rather than being a narrative on the sidelines that seems like a voice explaining the plot of the movie because you can't figure out what is happening on screen.  The one thing that niggles a little is that it seems a little too close to the Hunger games trilogy by Suzanne Collins - but that is possibly because of the shared Collins surname and the fact that they are both set in the future and that they both involve running through dangerous environments (although in this case a virtual environment).

Overall this was a very satisfying read, being nothing more or less than was promised.  There is the odd plot twist that makes you think huh, and the ending is not what you might expect.  While the target market appears to be teenage boys (computer games, a mystery, a shark in the swimming pool - need I say more) there is also plenty here for anyone who likes a really engrossing read that isn't going to take days to finish.  Hopefully Collins writes more of this time because she has a punchy writing style and has a knack for keping the story moving at a decent pace.

If you like this book then try:
  • Hunger games by Suzanne Collins
  • Because we were the travellers by Jack Lasenby
  • Enclave by Ann Aguire
  • Serpents of Arakesh by V.M. Jones
  • The walls have eyes by Clare B. Dunkle

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Firespell by Chloe Neill

Lily Parker is about to start at the exclusive St Sophia's in Chicago - a private academy for girls that just screams old money and snooty girls.  It seems as though Lily is going to be out of her league very quickly, but her fast friendship with Scout (one of her new room mates) means that she is not as lonely as she seems - even though the local queen bee and her followers seem to want to make her life miserable.  Scout has a secret she is keeping though - she is part of a group that is trying to protect the streets of Chicago from the bad guys, bad guys who have power and are not afraid to use it to get what they want.  Lily has been thrown in the deep end and she has to learn the rules of the new world around her before she makes a fatal mistake.

This is the first book in the Dark elite series and introduces readers to Lily Parker, Scout and the rest of the people who populate a world where magic is a very real thing, as are the dangers that come because of it.  When I read this I had the feeling that I had read parts of this before, possibly because there seems to have been a mini explosion of books about teenagers with magic who are living in a boarding school situation.  That said, this is an interesting read that moves along at a decent pace, but there are some cliches that raise their heads so the speak - you have the mean queen bee, the braindead follower, the handsome boy who's just out of reach, the bad guys who may not be what they appear, and the superior bad guy who just oozes bad guy stuff. 

It will be interesting to see if the rest of the series continues with the same speed and strength.  This is not the best book of this type out there, but it is very readable and hasn't been dumbed down for a teenage audience (which sadly some authors do).  This book is a nice balance between a fun read, and a read with real mythology and 'world building' behind it - a world that you can really believe exists within ours, just waiting to be discovered.

If you like this book then try:
  • Hexbound by Chloe Neill
  • Glass houses by Rachel Caine
  • Hex hall by Rachel Hawkins
  • Glimmerglass by Jenna Black
  • Skin hunger by Kathleen Duey
  • Impossible by Nancy Werlin
  • Legacies by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Crave by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz

Shay has a rare and debilitating blood disease, one that seems to defy a proper diagnosis from all the specialists she has seen throughout her life.  Her life is a series of blood transfusions that help her life a half life - one where she is always watching the other kids at her school go to parties, hang out, and make it through a whole week of school.  Then her stepfather, who also happens to be one of the best doctors around for someone with a blood disease, gives her a transfusion that has Shay fizzing with life, bursting with an energy she has never had before.  Suddenly she is hanging out and being normal, leaving the "Sick Girl" tag behind.  But where does the new blood come from, what makes it so special, and why does she keep having visions of another life where the people around her call her Gabriel - where the people around her are vampires.

Finding a new way to twist the vampire mythology is not easy, especially with all the creative people out there who have tackled not only the vampire mythology, but also the dhampir mythology.  Burns and Metz have done a great job of finding something new here, something that while at times was a little transparent so you could see things coming, was also just a little bit clever.  Jumping in with the action can be a tricky move for a book, but the gamble paid off here with action straight away and the back story coming through slowly as the book unfolds.  This is obviously the first book in a series (judging by the fact that the sequel is already available) and if the series remains as strong as the first book then this will be a good series to read.

If you like this book then try:
  • Sacrifice by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz
  • Turned by Morgan Rice
  • Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
  • Glass houses by Rachel Caine
  • Crusade by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie
  • Kissing coffins by Ellen Schrieber

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, October 9, 2011

First born by James Goss

With the destruction of Torchwood, and with Captain Jack leaving Earth, Gwen is the only remaining link to Torchwood and someone wants her very badly judging by all the men in black chasing her and Rhys across Wales.  Being on the run is never fun or easy, but being heavily pregnant adds its own complications, as does the arrival of baby Anwen.  Hiding in an out of the way little village called Rawbone seems like an okay plan, until Gwen and Rhys notice that there is something very different about the children of Rawbone - they're a little too neat, a little too perfect, more than just a little bit difference.  Things are also strange with the adults, they seem to have an unhealthy interest in Rhys, Gwen and Anwen, an interest that could turn dangerous if Gwen can't figure out what is really going on in this village - and the fact that Torchwood has the key for a caravan in an abandoned caravan park means that Jack knows something, if only he was there to ask.

Novels that tie in to TV series can either go really well, or really badly, depending on the author and how well they learn the details of their characters through the eyes of the fans.  You could probably write a really good novel using the facts from the writers of the show, but it can take someone who has watched the series to make it really work.  I can't judge if James Goss watches the show or not, but it appears that he is very steeped in the worlds/cultures of Torchwood and the result is a punchy novel that is thoroughly engrossing and you can almost see the episode running through your head. 

This is part of a series of three novels that act as prequels for season four of Torchwood and is the bets of the two I have tried to read - the other being Long time dead which was discarded after the first few pages because it lacked any zing.  The only weird thing about this particular books are all the references to motherhood and what it feels like - kind of weird from a male author even if he did acknowledge his support team.  Thoroughly enjoyable read and I can't wait to get my copy of The men who sold the world so I can see how that compares to the others in the series.

If you like this book then try:
  • X-files: Ground zero by Kevin J. Anderson
  • X-files: Skin by Ben Mezrich
  • Doctor Who: The kings dragon by Una McCormack
  • Doctor Who: Nuclear time by Oli Smith
  • Torchwood: Pack animals by Peter Anghelides

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cowboy & Wills by Monica Holloway

Wills is the much loved son of Michael and Monica, and he also has high functioning autism.  This book is the story of how Monica brings a menagerie of small animals into his life (that builds into a small zoo) that make a difference, and the story of a golden retriever named Cowboy who made big changes in all of their lives.  This is a families journey of discovery, love, and hope, and a draining and exhausting story of a family that battles through the heartache of a puppy with health problems so severe that most people would have given up immediately. 

As emotional roller coasters go, this book will take you on a journey from laughter, to crying, to laughing, to poignant moments that will take your breath away.  In places you will definitely need the tissues nearby, but it is an amazing story of a little boy who makes connections to the world around him and finds his place amongst his peers, and about a golden retriever who walked beside (and even dragged him forward) to make friends.

If you have read A friend like Henry by Nuala Gardner you will be struck by the similarities between Dale and Wills.  Both are locked in their own world and struggle with the world we all live in, to the point of screaming or running away.  For both boys a golden retriever entered their lives and began to make a positive difference, helping them to connect to the world around them.  Both mothers provide a detailed (but not analytical) account of the lead up to the big autism diagnosis, and the special schools and therapies that they entered into to help their sons. 

But there is something missing from Cowboy and Wills, something that leaves you a little bit wanting, almost like it was written as a script for a movie rather than truly narrating what came from the heart.  That could partly be because Cowboy becomes so ill and so much of the book is about Cowboy and the lengths they go to in an attempt to find a diagnosis, to find a treatment, the hope that she will pull through.  It could also just be that I have read too many of these types of books recently about service dogs and assistance dogs, and that A friend like Henry has stuck with me more because it was the first book of this type that I read - I really just don't know but this book just didn't "gel" as well with me.

This is an amazing book from the point of view that Monica is a mother determined to move heaven and earth (and the occasional small animal) to help her son get the best out of life - the special school, the therapists, the pets, the puppy, all working towards Wills having as normal a life as possible.  Monica and Michael are obviously devoted parents, and Wills thrives under their support, and I really enjoyed reading the book and seeing the changes Cowboy helped to make - don't let me put you off reading it, you just may want to try reading A friend like Henry afterwards and draw your own conclusions.  This at times feels very much like someone went there's a story about a child with autism in the United Kingdom and the golden retriever that helped change his life, lets tell the American version now we've seen how popular this type of book is becoming.

Although Cowboy was not technically an assistance dog or service dog because she had no formal training in that area, I have categorised this book with the other assistance/service dog biographies because that is the best fit and the parts of this book that you enjoy are most likely to be the parts of those books that you enjoy.

If you like this book then try:
  • A friend like Henry by Nuala Garnder
  • Until Tuesday by Luis Carlos Montalvan
  • A dog named Slugger by Leigh Brill
  • A dog in a million by Hazel Carter
  • Partners for life by Jane Bidder

Reviewed by Brilla