Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott

Alice is a lonely girl, who lives a secret life hidden in plain sight.  People who see her know that something is different, something is wrong, but no one stops to see if she is okay or needs help.  And she does need help, the man she lives with is not her father, is not her family, he is the monster who stole her away from her family and turned her into his Alice - his creature, his creation, his prisoner.

For years Alice has done what she is told, has tried to be the perfect Alice, has tried to forget what she once was.  It's not easy, she has to endure so much, and she has started to live in fear because she is not little Alice anymore, she is starting to change and grow into a young woman.  Ray doesn't want Alice to change, he wants her to stay his little girl, and every time she gains to much weight or seems to grow he does all he can to stall her growth and keep her little. 

But worst of all, Ray is starting to look at other girls the way he once looked at Alice, he is looking at them like he would like to bring them home and make them into a new Alice.  For years Alice has lived a life that has been torture and a living death, but there is something worse to come - what if she is replaced and discarded, or killed and left to be found like trash like the original Alice was?  Can she become the monster who finds her own replacement?

This is not an easy read for so many reasons.  The story of Alice, while not particularly graphic made my skin crawl, not only because the idea of a child shaped and twisted by a paedophile was so revolting, but also because in the back of my mind was the realisation that this actually happens to people.  It was also difficult to read because Alice has such a tortured voice, a mix of being an adult too soon, and being a broken and sad figure who just wants to hang onto life and be free. 

There are times throughout the story where you hope that she might be free, and then something happens or someone looks the other way and your heart sinks.  The ending when it comes is short and sharp and just takes your breath away.  It was a quick read of just a few hours, but it has stayed with me like so few stories has - and in many ways reminds me of When rabbit howls and the story of women who have endured rape and torture and fractured into multiple personalities, whereas little Alice stayed whole in the sense of one personality, but also broken in the sense of being so controlled by Ray.

This is one novel that I would recommend for older teen readers rather than 'tweens or younger teens - due not only to the subject matter, but also because of the blunt writing style.  If you are going to give this to a teenager then please read it yourself first so that when they come to you with questions (and I guess that they will) that you have some answers ready for them.

If you read this book and would like to read similar books then try:
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick
  • Because I am furniture by Thalia Chaltas
  • Boy toy by Barry Lyga
  • Such a pretty girl by Laura Wiess
  • Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
  • Stolen by Lucy Christopher
  • Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher

Reviewed by Brilla

Girl, missing by Sophie McKenzie

Every year Lauren dreads doing the "who am I?" assignment for her new teacher, but this year it is even worse than usual and leads her to trying a random search in a search engine that brings up some very interesting websites - including one that lists missing children.  One of the faces on the website looks disturbingly like Lauren, and starts her on a journey down a very scary path.  Lauren has always known she was adopted, but could she have been stolen from her family before she was adopted?

I read this book a few years ago and decided, with a long weekend looming due to a public holiday, to read it again because I have been reading books about kidnapping and family dramas lately and wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered - and was both pleased and a little disappointed on the second reading.  Mostly I was pleased as it was a fast moving read that kept up the pace from start to finish, with the odd twist and turn to keep you guessing about what was coming next.  I was a little disappointed because I had forgotten how "British" the book could be in places with the slang and the way some of the things were phrased.

Overall this was an enjoyable read with plenty of drama and action to keep most readers on the edge of their seats.  It is not the most amazing book ever, but it doesn't dumb down the storyline too much.  I have read other books by this author and found her to be pretty good overall, with books that move at a fast pace with interesting plots and twists.  Thoroughly enjoyable and while this may appeal more to girls than boys because the main character is a girl, it should appeal to boys too who like real life/dramatic reads.

If you like this book then try:
  • The set-up by Sophie McKenzie
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick
  • Beast by Ally Kennen
  • Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy
  • Variant by Robison Wells
  • The recruit by Robert Muchamore

Reviewed by Brilla

Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings

For years Natalie has lived on the cusp of two worlds - the world where she can see, and the world of the blind.  Since she was a child her eye sight has been slowly slipping away, shrinking from a full world to a world where she struggles to make things out.  She has managed by counting her steps, making mental maps, and staying where things are familiar, but with the last of her sight slowly shrinking into nothing she makes the big step of attending the Baltimore Center for the Blind so she can learn the skills she will need if she loses the rest of her sight.

The school is not what she expected, not that she really expected anything.  Not all of the students are blind, some of them are balanced in both worlds like Natalie, while others have additional disabilities to cope with.  For ages she feels like a fraud, doing just enough to get by in her new classes, but stubbornly clinging to her old ways of coping when no one else is around.  The white cane is a visual reminder of being blind and one she doesn't want to carry and use.  Reading using Braille seems like admitting defeat and why should she have to learn it when there are audio books for her to listen to?  With her sight slipping into darkness, Natalie has to find the strength and courage to embrace what could be her future.

This is an amazing book, and it really shows that the author did her research.  The doubts and regrets that pass through Natalie's mind are both real and engaging, and you can't help but become part of her world.  At times it can be a little hard keeping everyone in the school straight because the names fly thick and fast at times, but it doesn't really distract from the story.  It is a coming of age story, it is a story about grief and grieving, and it is a story about true friendships and trusting in your self.  Natalie is a strong character who has her ups and downs, but you don't feel sorry for her, she is a young woman who is more than capable of making her own decisions - even when she is facing something that is scary or devastating. 

A must read for anyone who enjoys real life reads with real life characters.

If you like this book then try:
  • Thunder dog: the true story of a blind man, his guide dog, and the triumph of trust at ground zero by Michael Hingson with Susan Flory
  • Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Private # 1 suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Jack Morgan has been on an overseas trip and walks in his door to find a dead body in his bed - but it's not just any dead body, and now he knows that he is being framed for a murder he didn't commit.  It seems like a slam dunk case and there are plenty of people around who would like to see him crash and burn and spend the rest of his life in jail, or get the needle.  It is a time to find out who is really loyal to him and Private, and who is not.  To make matters even more complicated, Carmine Noccia wants to use their association to get back something that was stolen, something that could cause even more problems for Jack and Private.  Weaving in and out of these stories are the other cases that are keeping the rest of the Private team busy - a series of murders in hotels, and a movie star who can't stay out of trouble.

This is the latest book in the Private series and it really starts with a bang.  While the introduction leads you to believe Jack is innocent, the case just seems so tight that you have to wonder occasionally if he does have something to do with it.  Slickly written, the story moves along at break neck pace and keeps you reading from the start to the finish.  This is a very interesting series and has a lot of potential because there are Private offices around the world which allows for a large cast of characters and the opportunity for there to be cross over story lines between different offices.  The pairing of Patterson and Paetro seems to work particularly well in terms of both the quality of the writing, and the ability for them to produce a seamless novel that keeps the action moving.

If you like this book then try:
  • Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • The survivors club by Lisa Gardner
  • Postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • Swimsuit by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • The rabbit factory by Marshall Karp
  • The silent girl by Tess Gerritsen
  • Full black by Brad Thor
  • Level 26: Dark prophecy by Anthony E. Zuiker & Duane Swierczynski
  • Kiss the girls by James Patterson
  • Keeping the dead by Tess Gerritsen

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The dog who rescues cats by Philip Gonzalez and Leonore Fleischer

Philip Gonzalez was always an active man who worked in the physically demanding job of construction.  He had served his country in Vietnam and returned home to his family and friends, only to be badly injured in an accident on the job.  Essentially losing the use of his right arm, Gonzalez began spiralling into a deep depression no longer caring about what he did, what he wore, and becoming virtually housebound.  Dragged to the local shelter by a well meaning friend, Gonzalez was only interested in the big dogs, the large breeds and a male - until a small female met him at the bars of the adoption cage and decided he was the person for her.

Naming her Ginny, Gonzalez took her home and found a true companion and friend, another living being to share his world.  What he didn't know was that Ginny would soon help their little family of two to grow.  It turned out that Ginny had a knack for finding stray cats, and she also had a talent for finding cats with disabilities - from deafness, to blindness, to missing hind feet.  Over the years Ginny and Gonzalez found cats all around the neighbourhood who needed help, and with his very limited disability payments Gonzalez fed dozens of cats each day, and spent time and money catching the cats, neutering them, and rehoming them if possible.  Together he and Ginny saved dozens of lives and prevented hundreds of unnecessary litters.

The story of Ginny and Gonzalez is heart warming and touching, and at times deeply disturbing when you consider what was done to some of the cats.  It is the story of the cats they rescued, but also much more - a story about unconditional love and trust.  At times I laughed out loud and shared the funny parts, at other times I cried over some of the stories, and at times I was left gob smacked by what some of them went through.  At times this is not an easy read, but it was well worth it in the end to "meet" this amazing duo and learn about the work they have done.

If you like this book then try:
  • Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper
  • A cat called Norton by Peter Gethers
  • Cowboy and Wills by Monica Holloway
  • Making rounds with Oscar by David Dosa
  • Finding Harmony by Sally Hyder
  • Dewey: The small-town library cat who touched the world by Vicki Myron & Bret Witter

Reviewed by Brilla

The real thing by Brian Falkner

Fraser, Fizzer to his mates, is not your average teenager he has ESP - Extraordinary Sensory Perception.  He can hear and smell better than other people, but his real talent is that he can tell you all about the fizzy drink you have given him to taste.  He can tell you the brand and the flavour, and he is never wrong - until the day he is (but it wasn't really his fault).  One little trip to Coca-Cola headquarters in Auckland soon snowballs into a trip to Atlanta and the start of the biggest adventure of Fizzers life.

This is a fantastically funny and enjoyable read from Brian Falkner.  The story bounces and rollicks along with great momentum and just the right blend of idiocy, humour, and adventure.  Fizzer and Tupai are great characters and the villains are delightfully troublesome.  While the humour in some ways is distinctly Kiwi, it will also have a slightly wider appeal, and while it would be unfair to describe Falkner as a modern day Roald Dahl (because he is his own man and has his own style) there is something Dahl-like to this adventure of Fizzer and it may appeal to young readers who like Roald Dahl and would like to try something a little more modern.

Falkner is a great author and combines a great story with good pacing and just the right amount of background to keep things moving at the right pace.  In a lot of ways this reads like a spoken story, like someone is telling it to you verbally and that they are skipping around a little because they want to make sure you are up with the play, and luckily Falkner finds the right balance with this technique rather than making the story too difficult to follow.  I read this when it first came out and it was a real pleasure to read it again.

If you like this book then try:
  • Northwood by Brian Falkner
  • The super freak by Brian Falkner
  • The project by Brian Falkner
  • Charlie and the chocolate factory by Roald Dahl
  • The world around the corner by Maurice Gee
  • The Onts by Dan Greenburg
  • The field guide by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Homer's odyssey a fearless feline tale or how I learned about love and life with a blind wonder cat by Gwen Cooper

Gwen Cooper was not looking to add another cat to her family of two felines, but when she was introduced to a small black bundle of fur with no eyes it seemed as though it was meant to me.  Surrendered at only a few weeks old to the local vet clinic with an eye infection so bad the kindest thing to do was remove his eyes, Homer seemed destined to live a sad existence - but no one counted on the spirit of this small black cat and the devotion of his new owner.

Living through challenging times in her home town of Miami, Gwen survives the indignity of having to move back in with her parents while she struggles to change her career (all so she can support her brood), and all the cats survive having to move in with the dreaded enemy (insert here the word "dog").  As times moves forward steadily, the one constant in Gwen's life is the antics of Homer and the quiet dignity of Vashti and Scarlett - who were not much impressed by the appearance of a black whirlwind with no sense of decorum or common cat decency.

Moving to New York was another challenge for them all, and they seemed to make it with no problems - until 9/11 and the devastating after effects.  Throughout it all are the lessons Homer taught not only Gwen but also those around her.  A disability doesn't stop you living your life, sometimes it sucks but you can still make it work.  If things don't work out how you expect then try again until you (hopefully) get a different result.  And above all, that love makes a difference - even if it is a small one.

This was both a touching and memorable book.  Homer is larger than life as are the supporting cast around him.  Gwen is a fantastic voice for this story, which makes sense seeing as it is her story as much as Homer's.  At times you climb to the heights of excitement and joy, and at other times you are right there are she lives through some of the worst moments in her life.  Homer is amazing, but in her own way Gwen is equally amazing for the love and devotion she has shown to the cats in her life.

If you like this book then try:
  • A cat called Norton: the true story of an extraordinary cat and his imperfect human by Peter Gethers
  • A friend like Henry by Nuala Gardner
  • Every dog has a gift: true stories of dogs who bring hope & healing into our lives by Racehl McPherson with Deborah Mitchell
  • Making the rounds with Oscar by David Dosa
  • Talk to the tail: Adventures in cat ownership and beyond by Tom Cox

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, January 9, 2012

The splendid spotted snake by Betty Ann Schwartz & Alexander Wilensky

A little snake is born and begins to grow - it may sound like a rather simple concept, but this book is anything but simple.  With each new page there is a new colour to explore and enjoy as the snake grows and grows and grows - becoming a bright and colourful wonder.

There are few books that become instantly memorable, but this is one of them, a picture book that will have the lasting appeal of The very hungry caterpillar.  The illustrations are charming and simple, yet they have a huge impact, partly because the snake grows with bright yellow fabric strips coloured with bright spots.  And the words that accompany the pictures blend perfectly with the pictures to make a fun read for the whole family to enjoy.

This is a perfect sharing book, either for a group of children in a class or storytime, or one-on-one with your favourite little (or big) person.  Thoroughly engaging and lots of fun for all ages.

If you like this book then try:
  • The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Not a box by Antoinette Portis
  • What makes a rainbow? by Betty Ann Scwartz & Dona Turner
  • Should I share my icecream by Mo Willems

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, January 8, 2012

You are my only by Beth Kephart

Sophie lives a protected life with her mother - a protected life of homeschooling and constant moving to stay away from the "No Good".  Her life is full of history and philosophy as she works through the essays and pojects her mother assigns, and reads the piles of library books that come home from the public library.  It is the only life she has known, and she doesn't know what she is missing - until she breaks the rules and meets the boy next door.  Joey and his family are a source of warmth and comfort, and they make Sophie realise that something is missing from her life.

Emmy is a young mother living through a series of nightmare events - one day she leaves her baby in the swing in the back garden for the few steps it takes to fetch a blanket from the house, but in that short time her baby is gone.  Her husband thinks she is stupid, and more than a little crazy, but all Emmy wants to do is find Baby and bring her home.  Her desperation leads to Emmy being locked away in a mental institution where she still clings to the need to find Baby, no matter what the cost.

Two stories told across time, a girl struggling to make sense of her mother and the way they live their lives, and a young mother who feels the need to find her missing Baby no matter what the cost to herself.  A blending of two voices into a story that twists and turns between the past and present, with two unique and distinct voices taking you along on their personal journeys.

When I picked up this book I didn't like it at first, mainly because of Emmy and her "voice" which comes across as disjointed and clipped, like someone who is very simple or suffers from a mental illness where there is no firm connection to reality.  But in the end the story sucked me in, mainly because once you get used to her voice Emmy is a fascinating character, as is Sophie who seems to polarise between being the dutiful daughter and being a normal teenager.  The story unfolds rapidly and you can't help but connect with the other characters in the book - characters that surround both Emmy and Sophie. 

At times it appears obvious where the story is heading, yet at times it catches you by surprise.  This book will not appeal to everyone because it is a little odd and Emmy will drive some readers to distraction/boredom but I am glad I persevered and finished this book as it was a very satisfying read where you really feel as though you have lived through both their journeys, and the ending while a little abrupt was satisfying.

If you like this book then try:
  • The face on the milk carton by Caroline B. Cooney
  • Whatever happened to Janie? by Caroline B. Conney
  • Held by Edeet Ravel
  • Stolen children by Peg Kehret
  • Girl, missing by Sophie McKenzie

Reviewed by Brilla

Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

Demi is about to start at her new school which is not that unusual, but Demi's new school is not your typical high school - it is a college for the deaf.  Demi was part of the hearing world until she developed meningitis, and one of the lasting side effects was that she became profoundly deaf.  Nearly two years later she is making the leap to study in a school especially for the deaf, rather than struggling through a normal high school where she had to depend on an interpreter.  It is a huge change and an even bigger culture shock - especially when she meets Star, a teenager who has been deaf since birth and has grown up in a family where everyone is deaf.

Struggling to find a balance in her life, Demi tries to make the people around her understand who she is and what she wants.  Her mother hovers protectively in the background, trying to convince her that the only chance she has for a normal future is to keep talking out loud and to attend a "normal" high school.  Her perfect sister, Flawless, backs her mother up, trying to convince Demi to listen to reason and do what is best for her future.  At her new school Star is dismissive of "hearies" encouraging Demi to stop talking and live in her new world, convinced that everyone from the hearing world wants to control her and stop her from doing things.  Demi's father is the only one who really seems to relax and let Demi be herself. 

Demi has left behind her old friends and her old school, not necessarily by choice, but also because she feels isolated from her old friends because they forget so easily that she can no longer hear.  The hearing world is not always a friendly place, and Demi doesn't want to wear her deafness on her sleeve, letting the whole world know she is disabled.  Demi is on the cusp of two worlds, and she can either find a way to being her two worlds together, or she can be torn apart by the conflict she has no real way to avoid.

A co-worker recommended this book, and I was a little sceptical when I started reading it because it seemed as though it was going to be one of those books - a book that tells you to feel sorry for someone with a disability because they deserve our compassion.  Whisper was nothing like that, it is a compelling read that has you laughing, and at times crying, along with Demi as she moves forward into her new world, a unique world that has elements of her past hearing world, and elements of her new deaf world.  Demi is endearing and very real, a voice for a generation of young people facing challenges in their lives who can make choices for themselves and change their own destinies.  Demi was lovable and completely believable - this is one of the best books I have read for a long time and thoroughly recommend it.

If you like this book then try:
  • Thyla by Kate Gordon
  • See ya, Simon by David Hill
  • Read my lips by Teri Brown
  • Properties of water by Hannah Roberts McKinnon
  • Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings
  • Five flavours of dumb by Antony John
  • Read my lips by Jana Novotny Hunter

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Henry by Judith Kerr

A widow imagines her late husband, the eponymous My Henry, joins her in extraordinary adventures like riding a dinosaur, and swimming with mermaids.

A bittersweet reminiscing book, but not necessarily for children, more for those who have loved and lost.

If you like this then try:
  • The very best of friends by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Julie Vivas.
  • Always and forever by Alan Durant, illustrated by Debi Gliori.
  • Grandpa's angel by Jutta Bauer.
  • To hell with dying by Alice Walker, illustrated by Catherine Deeter.
Reviewed by Thalia.

A courtesan's guide to getting your man by Celeste Bradley & Susan Donovan

In modern-day Boston, museum curator Piper is turning 30 and having a really bad day - either the worst of her life, or the second-worst. Both of these days have been witnessed by the gorgeous Mick Malloy. This day, however, has an upside, if she takes the challenge, of finding the long-hidden diaries of Olivia Harrington - local historical luminary and human rights campaigner.

In Regency London, 18-year-old Olivia finds a unique way of avoiding an arranged marriage - but leaving society behind and becoming a courtesan, trained by a masked man known to her only as 'Sir'.

With the encouragement of her best friend, Brenna, Piper undertakes a makeover inspired by the lessons and experience of Olivia, the Blackbird, gleaned from the diaries.
But does Piper have the courage to share Olivia's hidden past with the world in a very in-your-face museum exhibition?  An intriguing read which made wish it was longer, with maybe more of Olivia's story. However, I do have some reservations about the realities of Olivia's experience. But what would I know, I'm not a 19th-century courtesan, nor a historian. And why didn't Olivia's hero open up sooner?
Steamy sex scenes.

If you like this book, then try:
  • Lisa Kleypas' Bow Street Runners series: Someone to watch over me, Lady Sophia's lover and Worth any price.
  • Lord Scandal by Kalen Hughes.
  • Samatha Saxon trilogy: The Lady lies, The Lady killer and The Lady's code.
Reviewed by Thalia.

Monday, January 2, 2012

City of lies by Lian Tanner

City of lies is the second book in the Keepers Trilogy - if you have not read the first book Museum of thieves then be warned that the review below has ***SPOILERS*** and that you may want to read the first book before reading this review.

Welcome back to the city of Jewel, a land where until very recently all the children of the land were chained to either a parent or a Blessed Guardian to keep them safe from the dangers in the world around them.  Thanks to the Museum of Dunt a spunky girl named Goldie Roth that has all changed - though not necessarily for the better.  Golide is enjoying the new freedom, but she is also struggling with her destiny to be the next Keeper of the Museum of Dunt, despite all the pressure she is facing from her friends and the Museum itself.  When her friend, and Toadspits little sister, Bonnie is snatched from the street she and Toadspit rush to the rescue, but they soon find themselves caught up in a dangerous new adventure.

Goldie, Toadspit and Bonnie soon find themselves in the city of Spoke a neighbouring city that is like Jewel, but is also very different.  Separated from Toadspit and Bonnie, Goldie needs to figure out what is happening so she can find her friends and help them return home.  There is a dangerous enemy in Spoke, and to make matters worse they have arrived near the time of the Festival of Lies when everyone tells a lie, and the bigger the lie the better!  The only time anyone can tell the truth is when they are touching an animal, but even then can they really be trusted?  Dangerous times lie ahead for Goldie and her friends, and back in Jewel a new danger lurks at the edge of the city.

This is the second book in this trilogy and I have to confess that I liked it more than the first book in the series - maybe because I was used to the writing style, and also because the second book in a series is often easier to read because all the introductions are out of the way and you can jump straight in with the story.  I am really looking forward to the last book in the series Path of beasts to be released so I can see how this series ends.  Goldie is a fascinating hero because she is so imperfect, and there are some interesting plot twists and some interesting mythology with this series (and from other reviews you may have figured out that I like interesting and well thought out mythologies). 

City of lies is a great read and will appeal to a wide age range.  Younger readers who would like a bit of a challenge will enjoy it, 'tweens will enjoy it, teens who struggle a little with their reading will enjoy it, and as I have proved adults will enjoy it too.  Hopefully book three will round out the series well and leave us feeling as satisfied as City of lies, and hopefully Tanner will continue to write more books in this genre with her unique eye for what is and what could be.

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 moutain by Maurice Gee
  • Into the wild by Erin Hunter
  • Finding the fox by Ali Sparkes
Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Set me free by Eva Gray

Set me free is the fourth and final book in the Tomorrow girls series.  In November we reviewed book number two, and while this series was nothing to rave about it was a decent read that would have appealed to 'tween readers or to advanced younger readers or older readers who are struggling a little with their reading but would still like a good read.  Set me free continues in the same form as Run for cover and finishes off the series nicely - though a few readers may find the series to be a little unsatisfying at the end.  One of the biggest things about this series is that it would have worked well as one novel, with all the story lines blended together to form a cohesive whole - or as a duology with the action built during the first novel and then the last novel leading to the grand finale.

Don't expect too much from this series and you won't be disappointed.  The characters are somewhat flat and two dimensional, and it feels like it was written more as a screen play than a novel, and I wouldn't be too surprised to see a made for TV movie made from this series.  It is well written for what it is, but readers expect more these days, and they deserve more.  A once-over-lightly read that will appeal to girls more than boys, and could lead to reading more books of the future dystopian genre or adventure stories like those mentioned below.

If you like this book then try:
  • Tomorrow, when the war began by John Marsden
  • Among the hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The hunger games by Suzanne Collins
  • Variant by Robison Wells
  • Arrival by Chris Morphew
  • The lab by Jack Heath
  • Eve by Anna Carey

Reviewed by Brilla

Melody burning by Whitley Strieber

Melody McGrath is the current It Girl of music, a rapidly growing star who is working on the second album and concert that could lift her to greater heights or make her crash and burn.  Her mother is concerned about her music, but also about her image - it is all about the best, the biggest, and the brightest.  That means that only place they can possibly live is the behemoth tower that is called the Beresford.  Intersecting with her life is the life of a boy who has grown up in the Beresford after his father was thrown from the building.  He has long forgotten his real name and has no idea of real life beyond the world of the Beresford - he lives his life through the people in the building, and through the TV that he enjoys when the tenants are away.  It is a life he is comfortable with, one that he knows, and one that brings him close to Melody McGrath. 

Their lives are about to collide in a most unexpected way.  There is a sinister plot building around the Beresford, one that could cost them everything.  The owner of the building has plans, and no one says no to him - not if they want to avoid the unpleasant consequences.  One of the people curently under his thumb is Frank, the building superintendent.  Frank has a record and a past, and he has no qualms about dealing with a squatter in the Beresford, but does he really have the stomach for the job?

Melody burning was an interesting read, but not for the reason you might think.  I didn't particularly like the book, I found the writing to be a little off putting, a little too unbelievable, but the story itself was fascinating.  Beresford in particular makes this story, he has the strongest voice of the two main characters, but even Frank has a strong voice when he comes to the fore.  Melody is quite frankly annoying, but she thankfully develops a little over the course of the story and becomes bearable.  I didn't like the book, but I am also glad I finished it, which is an odd position to be in for me who either usually loves a book and reads it, or dislikes the characters/story/setting and discards it almost immediately.  It will not appeal to everyone but if you give Melody burning a chance like I did you may also enjoy it.

If you like this book then try:
  • The other side of dark by Joan Lowery Nixon
  • A door near here by Heather Quarles
  • The killers cousin by Nancy Werlin
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Locked inside by Nancy Werlin
  • Variant by Robison Wells

Reviewed by Brilla

A cat called Norton by Pete Gethers

Peter Gethers was not a cat person in any way shape or form until a small kitten entered his life in a very unexpected way - that little bundle of fluff, whom he named Norton, became an inseparable companion and a star in his own right.  Starting from the time he was a small kitten Norton became a seasoned travelling, taking trips by car, boat, and plane to take full part in his humans life.  At times the story seems almost beyond belief, it seems impossible that one small little cat could have done everything that Norton did, but as the story develops you realise that Norton did all that and then some.

I read this story when it was first published in the 1990's and read the sequels that were released around the same time.  Gethers has a true gift for writing about his cat Norton, breathing all the warmth and affection he has for Norton and the humour of all their adventures into a very readable auto/biography that has you laughing out loud for a good portion of the time (please note, don't read this book on public transport as the other commuters will look at you a little oddly).  I loved being reacquainted with Norton and his adventures and was heartened to see that the other books in the series have either been released, though not necessarily with the same title, and that the original titles are available on Amazon. 

This is a heart warming and touching read, and while it was a pleasurable read, it was also a reminder that there are some amazing people out there who really click with their companions.  It also serves as a charming reminder that dogs don't have the monopoly on loyalty and unswerving devotion to the humans in their lives.

If you like this book then try:
  • Norton, the loveable cat who travelled the world by Peter Gethers
  • Making rounds with Oscar: The extraordinary gift of and extraordinary cat by David Dosa
  • Dewey: The small-town library cat who touched the world by Vicki Myron & Bret Witter
  • Homer's odyssey: A fearless feline tale, or how I learned about love and life with a blind wonder cat by Gwen Cooper
  • Cleo: The cat who mended a family by Helen Brown
  • The dog who rescues cats by Philip Gonzalez

Reviewed by Brilla