Monday, May 28, 2012

Revived by Cat Patrick

Daisy is used to a travelling lifestyle, because every time she dies her family has to move again.  Daisy doesn't have super powers or the ability to fake death, she is part of a drug trial for a drug that can bring people back from the dead when they have died from certain kinds of injuries or accidents - a drug known simply as Revive.  When she dies from a bee sting she leaves her old name behind and moves to Omaha, where she quickly makes friends with Audrey, a girl who seems really at ease at school and popular, yet she also seems to have no friends.  Audrey also has a hot brother who sets Daisy's heart all aflutter. 

Trying to be normal and fitting in at school seems like a good idea for this lifetime, so Daisy accepts the offer of friendship and Audrey quickly becomes her best friend, but it is difficult to keep a huge secret like Revive, especially from your best friend and her brother - and especially when Audrey is hiding a pretty big secret of her own.  As Daisy gets closer to Audrey and Matt, she must also fight the urge to tell them more about herself and the project, as she has made vows to keep the programme a secret, and if she doesn't she won't be the only one to suffer.

Revived is fast paced, action packed, and a very addictive read.  Right from the start the story jumps in and doesn't stop until you reach the amazing conclusion.  Daisy and her world is well thought out and has some interesting cross overs into what you would consider the real world, you can easily imagine that there really is a secret drug trial going on out there (particularly if you are a little paranoid).  The relationship between Daisy, Audrey, and Matt is also well played out, a real human connection in what could easily have become just another science fiction or action book - the people help to keep the story human, and some of the moments made me tear up more than a little. 

Overall this is one of those novels that will appeal to a wide audience, and I was glad to see that a third novel from Cat Patrick is due for release in 2013 as she is strong author with an amazing "voice" and I have enjoyed both her books immensely (no pressure or anything Cat Patrick, just hoping that your third book will be as good as your first two).  The story is complete in itself which is also kind of nice, as there are some other stories out there at the moment that are the beginnings of a series, so sometimes it is nice to be able to read just a book and know that you have been on a journey with the character - rather than having to wait ages for the rest of the story to be written and published.

If you like this book then try:
  • Forgotten by Cat Patrick
  • The limit by Kristen Landon
  • The arrival by Chris Morphew
  • Fearless by Francine Pascal
  • The lab by Jack Heath
  • The selection by Kiera Cass
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Every other day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Kali is your average teenager - except when she's not.  One day she is just like everyone else, living the teenage life of school, homework, and parental non-dramas - and the next she is a something else, something that can hunt the preternatural creatures like a bloodhound, who doesn't feel pain, and who can heal in a matter of hours from any wound.  She has gotten used to her topsy-turvy life of swinging from a fragile human to a supernatural creature that is more than a little scary, but she can't get used to not knowing what she is or why she is the way she is.

When Kali makes the courageous (and not necessarily well thought out) act of taking on a supernatural beastie to save one of the popular girls at school she has no idea that it will lead to some startling discoveries about who she is and what she is really capable of.  Along the way she makes friends with the school "slut", and finds herself forming an unlikely friendship with popular girl Bethany.  Her life goes from complicated and secretive to really complicated and not so secretive - a change that will place people in danger and will change her life forever.  Welcome to a world where we are not alone, and where the preternatural creatures that we thought were just figments of our imagination are an all too real.

Every other day is original, absorbing, and just a little bit creepy.  Kali is a fantastic, and very "human", lead character.  The world around her has a detailed mythology and a plausible explanation for pretty much everything (if I tell you too much more it will be spoilers), and there are clear "rules" that Kali knows so you learn them too through her understanding and perceptions of the world around her.  The supporting cast is also brilliant, particularly the relationship between Skyler and her big brood of brothers.  Bethany is also both the cardboard cut out snob from school, while also being a character that shows surprising depth and strength of character.  When I reached the end of the book I searched online to see if there were hints of a sequel but sadly there is none on the horizon yet - but hopefully Barnes will return to this world and write more adventures for Kali and her fellow cast of characters.

If you like this book then try:
  • Tattoo by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Raised by wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Anna dressed in blood by Kendare Blake
  • The unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
  • Daughter of smoke and bone by Laini Taylor
  • Sweet venom by Tera Lynn Childs
  • The demon trappers daughter by Jana Oliver
  • Legacies by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, May 18, 2012

Truth by Julia Karr

Truth is the companion novel to XVI and for the best enjoyment of the series it is highly recommended that you read XVI before reading this book or this review as it contains ***SPOILERS***

Nina is adjusting to live as a XVI, sporting the tattoo that announces to the world that she is 16 and therefore legally an adult and ready for sex.  The tattoo is false advertising - Nina may be legally an adult now, but she is not a sex mad teenager like they show in the Media, and she looks forward to the time when she can afford to add a surround around her XVI tattoo to make it less obvious.  Her life is more complicated now not only because she is XVI, but also because she is carrying the deep dark secret that Ed is dead and that she killed him - it may have been self defence and protecting her friend, but it doesn't change the fact that he is dead and her little sister Dee has to be kept in the dark.

Things are also complicated by the fact that Pops has fallen foul of the law and has been dragged away by BOSS - leaving Nina and Dee to fend for themselves when Gran ends up in hospital.  Wei's family takes them in, but that places Wei and her family at risk because there are people watching Nina and their intentions are not necessarily friendly.  As the noose closes in on Nina she has to make some difficult choices that affect her, her family, and her friends.  Nina is not afraid for herself, but her concerns for her family and friends may force her to make the wrong choices.

Truth is a fantastic additional to the world of XVI, providing a deeper story and (hopefully) leading towards another book in the series that details what happens at the end of this novel.  Nina has continued to grow as a character, and while some of the details of the previous novel were a little hazy, I soon got back into the swing of the story which dredged up the memories of what happened in XVI.  An engaging and engrossing read - and hopefully there will be at least one more book in the series to tie off some of the loose ends.

If you like this book then try:
  • XVI by Julia Karr
  • The pledge by Kimberly Derting
  • Legend by Marie Lu
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • The declaration by Gemma Malley

Reviewed by Brilla

The way we fall by Megan Crewe

Kaelyn lives on a small island in Canada, it is a beautiful place and a far cry from the bustling city where she has lived for the past few years.  Being back on the island is a little awkward, but she is making a real effort to fit back into island life.  But there is a new danger on the island - a sneeze soon turns into a cough, which turns into a fever and a loss of social control, then comes the screaming, and finally death.  At first it is only a handful of people, but then more and more people come down with the mysterious illness - including Kaelyn's family and friends.  As the illness spreads the island is cut off from the mainland, and then as more people start to die disorder spreads as people watch out for number one - no matter what the larger cost may be.

The way we fall is told in journal format, which in many ways adds to the impact of this thought provoking and realistic look at what could happen if a super bug or mutated virus were to cause an outbreak in an isolated community.  Other stories have shown what life can be like in a dystopian society, but here you can see how it might come about.  The "swine flu" H1N1 epidemic that struck in 2010/2011 could easily have resulted in this kind of epidemic, and there are other diseases out there that could ravage whole communities and leave them in chaos.  While initially I found it a little difficult to get into this story I was soon deeply involved in the story and didn't want to leave Kaelyn and her world behind.  The ending is rather abrupt, but it works for the story.

If you like this book then try:
  • Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
  • Partials by Dan Wells
  • Encalve by An Aguirre

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Secondhand charm by Julie Berry

Evelyn has grown up in the small village of Maundley, a sleepy little village where she and her best friend Prissy have quietly competed for years to be the top student at the local school - but it is a friendly competition that has kept their friendship interesting rather than destroyed it.  When news comes that the King will be coming to their little village it is really big news, and when Evies talents as a healer help her save a member of his entourage it is only the start of her adventures.  At the village fair celebrating the Feast and the arrival of the King, Evie buys a Gypsy charm because she likes it, but she soon ends up with more than just one charm - which is just as well as she may need all the help she can get.  On the way to the University, her coach is robbed by a bandit who steals all they possess and forces Evie to make some very difficult choices, choices that will change her life forever.

It is difficult to review this book without giving away too many of the plot twists and turns that make it such a fun and enjoyable book, with one twist in particular shaking the whole story up and making it something altogether more interesting.  Evie is a fun character who is headstrong and determined, but also somewhat niave and trusting when maybe she shouldn't be - she wants to see the good in people, and having been raised in a quiet little village she really can be quite sheltered.  The cast built around her is interesting and has a depth that is not always seen in young adult novels, and while there are some stereotypes that may only be apparent to me because of how many books I read and the kinds of books that I read. 

This was an engaging read that found the right balance between not being too heavy, and not being too light.  The ending was satisfying and not as predictable as it could have been, and there was a sense of satisfaction with the slight tickle of a potential sequel.  While not an anti-hero, Evie was definitely not your typical hero either.

If you like this book then try:
  • Wolf speaker by Tamora Pierce
  • Dragons milk by Susan Fletcher
  • The Amaranth enchantment by Julie Berry
  • Dealing with dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
  • Jeremy Thatcher, dragon hatcher by Bruce Coville
  • Charmed life by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Ella enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

An affair with Mr Kennedy by Jillian Stone

Meet the Gentlemen of Scotland Yard – a group of men dedicated to dealing with the Fenian terrorist threat in the late 1880s.
Zeno (nickname Zak) is a member of the Special Irish Branch of Scotland Yard, and is determined to uncover the identities of the men of The Bloody Four – gentlemen who may, or may not, be working for Irish Home Rule, through terrorist actions.
When he discovers that Cassandra (Cassie) St Cloud has links to one of the suspects, Zeno uses her. But his interest in her soon becomes personal.
Zeno and Cassie are well-developed as characters. And it will be interesting to see the development of the other men as heroes, particularly Flynn.
Cassie is not your traditional historical romance heroine – she is an artist and a widow, so can operator outside the normal rules of society. She also has very progressive parents, both doctors. It’s not often you have a historical roman heroine being given condoms by her mother.
Historical quibbles: according to the quick research I did… yes, the Special Irish Branch was formed in 1883 but, the Fenian Dynamite Campaign ran from 1881 til 1885 so, in theory, was over by 1887 when the novel is set. Oh, and the whole progressive parent thing. Not too sure of this one. It would take a fair bit of convincing for me to feel comfortable with this set-up. Cassie is a bit too modern – even with her family background – smoking, tattoo, bicycle riding, pantaloons… and a lover. Hmmm.
With those caveats it’s a 3.5 – 4 star read for me, and about a 3.5 in the steaminess scale.

Some other detective-y type historical romances you might want to try are:
  • The Bow Street Runners series by Lisa Kleypas: Someone to watch over me. Lady Sophia’s lover. Worth any price.
  • Second sight by Amanda Quick (this is one of the many Arcane Society books)
  • The Lake / March series by Amanda Quick: Slightly shady. Don’t look back. Late for the wedding.
  • Devil Riders series by Anne Gracie: The stolen princess. His captive lady. To catch a bride. The accidental wedding.
Reviewed by Thalia.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Grave mercy by Robin LaFevers

Ismae has been an outcast for her entire life, feared by the other people in her village because she wears the mark of Mortain - the god of death.  Her mother tried to kill her while she was still a baby in the womb, and the poison used by the herbwitch left her with scar that marks her as the child of death to anyone who sees it.  Her life gets worse when she is married to a brute man who is the same as her father - a brute of a man who will use her as he sees fit.  Saved from this fate, Ismae is taken to the convent of Mortain where she learns that she is blessed with the ability to resist any poison, a true gift from Mortain himself, and she also finds a welcoming place unlike she has ever known.

Years later, Ismae is one of Deaths handmaidens, skilled in the arts of poison and death by weapons.  She has lived a sheltered life in the convent, and when she is offered the chance to test her skills in the real world she is eager - but when her first assignment doesn't go quite as planned, she finds herself drawn into the complicated world of the Duchess of Brittany.  The Court is a complicated place with plots hidden behind plots, and nobody is who or what they seem.  To make things even more complicated, Ismae must work closely with Gavriel Duval, a man with a past as complicated as her own.  As things at Court get more and more complicated, Ismae finds herself drawing closer to Duval and growing more attached, more intrigued, and maybe even in love.

This is a massive read at over 500 pages, but once you are buried in the pages it doesn't seem anywhere near that long.  The story of Ismae and Duval is played out in exquisite detail, not taking too long to get to the point, but showing a real story of what happens over time between two people who spend a lot of time together when there is a spark of attraction.  The intrigues of Court add a layer of suspense and mystery, a challenge almost to try and figure out who the bad guy is or isn't, to figure out the complicated subplots that unfold throughout the story.  There is also the element of ancient magic and mythical skills, a belief structure that lies under the whole story and binding it together.

The author claims to be a hopeless romantic, and you can tell that she really understands the importance of a good story rather than two people sparking a mutual attraction and running off together.  Ismae is almost tortured at times by her loyalty to her convent, her calling, her god, and her Duchess.  She is on a path set for her by her vows, but she also comes to see that the world is more complicated than the training at the convent implied, and that maybe her god is also more complicated than she was led to believe.  You can also see the internal conflict for Duval who has sworn an oath to keep his sister the Duchess safe no matter what the cost. 

This was an all engrossing story and I look forward to the release of the next book in the series, Dark triumph, which is due for release in 2013.  If you like a really solid read, with real depth and storytelling, then try Grave mercy.

If you like this book then try:
  • Crown duel by Sherwood Smith
  • Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
  • Reserved for the cat by Mercedes Lackey

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic, illustrated by Olivier Tallec.

A young boy knows what dead is. He knows that’s what happening to his mother. But when the time comes, he struggles to deal with his grief – and looking after his bereft father. He’s afraid of losing his mother – so he keeps the windows shut, although it’s summer, to keep her smell inside. When he grazes his knee, he can hear her voice, so he keeps picking the scab off, to keep it bleeding, and his mother’s voice there. Then, one day, he realises the scab has gone and turned into a scar – like his grief. Simple cartoonlike illustrations, with a limited colour palette, are skilfully used to enhance the emotions of the characters.

A stunning picture book. I have read A LOT of books about death and grief – but this is one of the most powerful ones I know of. It is raw, and true, and so very real.

Some other stunning picture books about death and grief are:

  • The very best of friends by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Julie Vivas.
  • Remembering Mum by Ginny Perkins.
  • Tom’s story by Mandy Hager.
  • Bear and the Wildcat by Kazumi Yumoto.
  • The sunshine cat by Miriam Moss.
  • No matter what by Debi Gliori.
Reviewed by Thalia.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The demon-haunted world: science as a candle in the dark by Carl Sagan

This rallying cry on the importance of science and critical thinking may, alas, only be known and read by the converted.
Those with an interest in science will probably already know of Sagan. His name alone made this title appeal to me. On a shelf – be it library or bookshelf – it might leap out at the browser. However, its brilliance will, more likely than not, be missed by those who should read it the most: educators and politicians.
Coincidentally, on the day I finished the book, I heard a news report that scientific education is increasingly important.
Published the year of Sagan’s death, this is worthy of standing as his last word.
Sagan argues persuasively for the importance of teaching science, and the critical thinking – or baloney detecting – that scientific-thinking requires. When pseudoscience proliferates in popular culture – when more money is spent on alternative therapy research than main-stream medical research, for example – it is difficult for those without a sceptical mind / training, to distinguish it from true science.
Why is science so maligned? Ignored? Why don’t scientists share the joys and wonderment – the journeys they take to their discoveries?
I am one of the converted. I find wonderment, joy, and reassurance in the discoveries of science. How much more joyful can a thing be to discover that the very molecules of our beings are made of the same stuff as stars – that the building blocks of everything around us, and inside us – are made of particles ejected in the big bang – from the very beginnings of time. I can also reconcile this joy with a belief in a Creator – but not necessarily a God, from any religion.
I watch pseudoscience programmes regularly – and science ones, when they’re on – and scoff and make comments. And argue with my TV (it doesn’t reply, nor do the commentators on it, which is reassuring). My current favourite is Ancient Aliens which, if Sagan was still alive, I’m sure he’d be taking issue with. It is the heights of ridiculousness. And, it is a true example of Sagan’s contentions – it is made and screened on the History Channel. (Check out this article ‘Where’s the History on History?’ - I know it’s not science, which is what Sagan is talking about, mainly – but he does talk about recreating history, too).
I remember asking ‘why’ in maths class once. And only once. Because the answer was ‘I don’t know. You don’t need to know why. Just learn it so you can pass the exam’.
So, keep inspiring a sense of wondering and questioning in children. Work on developing their critical thinking. Answer those ‘why’ questions (the real ones, not the trying-to-annoy-the-adult ones) – even if the answer is ‘I don’t know’ – but follow up with ‘let’s see if we can find out’. Let them experiment. And, unfortunately, do your best to work against the current educational paradigms that teach rote learning of facts, not thinking and discovery.
PS I’d be interested to see where this book is catalogued elsewhere. Although the first subject heading in our catalogue is Science – Methodology… it’s Dewey Classification number is 001.9, which relates to the fourth subject heading, Superstition. That said, some of our copies are under 501 – which is a much better fit. (Having said that, if people browsing in the 001.9 area happen to take this out, it might expose them to science, rather than pseudoscience.)

Some other thoughtful science-type books you might want to try out are:
  • Any Richard Feyman title!
  • Bad ideas?: an arresting history of our inventions by Robert Winston.
  • Napoleon’s buttons: 17 molecules that changed history by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson.
  • They called me mad : genius, madness, and the scientists who pushed the outer limits of knowledge by John Monahan.
  • Boffinology: the real stories behind our greatest scientific discoveries by Justin Pollard.

Reviewed by Thalia.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Unveiled by Courtney Milan.

Ash Turner is motivated by love and revenge. Margaret Dalrympe by loyalty. Ash is determined to prove Margaret and her brothers are illegitimate and, therefore, himself the rightful heir to the dukedom. Although Ash doesn’t know who Margaret really is, he is determined to have her, while Margaret’s secrets compel her to keep her distance.

An intriguing historical romance, with very flawed characters. Ash is one of three brothers – their stories are told in Unclaimed (Mark) and Unraveled (Smite). The brothers’ mother was a religious fanatic and named her sons after biblical verses. They are all wounded by her madness and abuse of them. The relationships between the brothers is also damaged, as Ash left the family home to make his fortune, leaving his brothers behind.

Meanwhile, Margaret is left by her brothers to fix the disaster their father has made of their lives – and inheritance. Disguised as her father’s nurse, Margaret is to spy on Ash, the usurper. However, her growing awareness and appreciation of Ash’s morals and past come into conflict with her brothers’ demands – and the realisation that her brothers’ action and intents are not pure.

The brothers are not your typical historical romance heroes: they are wounded men, with deeply-held convictions and beliefs, tempered by their mother’s insanity. You can feel Ash’s agony as he tries to built relationships with his younger brothers.

Margaret, fortunately, is not just a cipher – a passive receptacle of Ash’s passion. Hers is a more quiet strength, but is fully capable of withstanding, and supporting, Ash’s.

Give this one a go, and keep an eye out for the sequels. I have been.

Some other historical romances that might appeal…
  • The Duke and I (and all the sequels!) by Julia Quinn.
  • For the Roses (and the sequels) by Julie Garwood.
  • Slightly Shady (and the sequels) by Amanda Quick.
  • Someone to watch over me by Lisa Kleypas.
  • The pretender by Celeste Bradley.
Reviewed by Thalia.

A confusion of Princes by Garth Nix.

Khemri is an enhanced being – equipped with medical and technical enhancements which make him a Prince of the Empire. As an adult, he learns there are millions of princes, but only one can become Emperor and leader of the Imperial Mind. With his retinue of priests and Haddad, his Master Assassin, Khemri learns his destiny is not the same as other Princes, if only he can stay alive to discover all of it – and achieve it. As he faces physical challenges, Khemri begins to question his training. As he is expose to life outside, and some time spent as a normal human being, Khemri’s choices become even less clear-cut.
A thoughtful, thought-provoking, exploration of humanity and technology, in a Space Opera setting.
This is what science fiction is best at: making us question our lives and society now.
5 stars all the way!

If you like this, try:
  • The Xenocide mission by Ben Jeapes.
  • Decision at Doona by Anne McCaffrey.
  • Genesis by Bernard Beckett.
  • The tomorrow code by Ken Catran.
  • The sky inside by Carle B. Dunkle.
  • Enchantress from the stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl.
  • Ender’s game by Orson Scott Card.
  • Gate to women’s country by Sheri S. Tepper. 
~  Thalia.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Iris’s ukulele by Kathy Taylor.

Iris and her best friend, Sidney, are Masters of the Musical Universe, with big plans. Except, Iris gets into a pickle and it seems like her partnership with Sidney is over. And her behaviour hasn’t impressed the wonderful Elijah, specially with Iris doesn’t stand up for Sidney against the class bully. How can Iris unpickle herself? It’s easy when have a great family and real friends.

A fun and quirky read about identity and individuality, friendship and family, and what’s really important.

An impressive first book.

If you liked this one, try these other New Zealand children's fiction books:
  • Super freak by Brian Falkner.
  • Hollie Chips by Anna Gowan.
  • Super Finn by Leonie Agnew.
  • Through thick and thin by Shirley Corlett.
~ Thalia.

Private games by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan

Private London is poised for action, they are about to help with the security arrangements around one of the worlds biggest sporting events - the 2012 London Olympic games.  The lead up has been shaky, Peter Knight has been thrust into the lead role at Private after the rest of the senior team was killed in a plane accident, and while he is a good agent it is a stressful time.  His nearly three year old twins are chewing through nannies (sometimes literally) at an alarming rate, and when a twisted villain named Cronus makes his presence known, things go from bad to worse.

Cronus plans to bring down the Olympics one crooked and twisted individual at a time.  His targets are the corrupt, the deceivers, the cheaters who flaunt what they have done.  His allies are the Furies, three sisters that have survived a worse fate than most of us can imagine, and now they fight by his side to help him bring down the Olympics.  But Cronus may have bitten off more than he could chew when he took on Knight and Private, because Knight is determined to find the man who killed his mothers fiancee.  As he gets pulled deeper and deeper into the case, Knight must work through not only the intricacies of the case, but also the multiple collisions between the case and his personal life - and the upcoming anniversary of his wifes death.

The Private series is one of the better series from James Patterson and his co-authors.  By basing the series in different offices around the world, and by using a series of different co-authors, Patterson has allowed for a greater depth of story than your traditional agency story - he can move characters from other agencies in and out of the storyline to give it more depth and more realism.  Having now read all four of the available books in the series, I have to say that Private Games was not my favourite, but it had some delightful twists and turns that keep you guessing, while also laying out some things that make you go huh until you realise that some of it is just a ruse to keep you guessing about what comes next.

Patterson is a fantastic author who keeps the pace strong and keeps the plot moving at a fast pace.  The twists and turns are usually interesting, and he has a knack for finding other authors to work with that are strong authors in their own right.   Hopefully the Private franchise will stay alive and well for many years to come.

If you like this book then try:
  • Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • Private London by James Patterson and Mark Pearson
  • Private # 1 suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • The postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • Level 26: Dark origins by Anthony E. Zuiker and Duane Swierczynski
  • Level 26: Dark prophecy by Anthony E. Zuiker and Duane Swiercyznski
  • The survivors club by Lisa Gardner
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • The apprentice by Tess Gerritsen
Reviewed by Brilla