Saturday, September 29, 2012

Innocent darkness by Suzanne Lazear

Magnolia "Noli" Braddock has a knack for working with machines, she can bring dead engines back to live and can coax reluctant flying autos to fly again.  The only problem is that Noli is also seen as a troublemaker in need of guidance, and when she takes a flying auto for a joyride she finds herself on the wrong side of the law.  To avoid jail Noli is shipped off to a boarding school where her mother hopes Noli will become the lady she was born to be, but in reality the boarding school is a place where the spirit is beaten out of the girls at every opportunity, their only goal is to turn out vapid and brainless girls who are fit for marriage.  The only bright spark for Noli is her blossoming friendship with Charlotte, a friendship that goes some way to replacing the friendship she had with V, the boy next door who is slowly turning into a man.

Noli is unhappy, but a heartfelt wish at the wrong moment sends her plummeting into the Otherworld - the world of "faeries".  The world is strange and dangerous, and Noli's only wish is to return home.  At first it appears that Kevighn was her chance to escape this strange world, but Kevighn has dark plans for Noli, plans that will save his world and Noli's - but at the expense of Noli's life.  Noli has very little time to make some difficult decisions, decisions of the heart and of the mind. 

Innocent darkness is the first book in the Aether Chronicles, and I have to say that while I did enjoy the story I was very disappointed with the number of editing mistakes I found, mistakes that jarred me out of the story and quite frankly annoyed me after the first few times.  There were spelling mistakes (and not just American-English vs. New Zealand-English), and there were extra words like that and had that appeared in random places.  It also felt at times like the author was trying to be too clever with her choice of names for characters - how Creideamh can be pronounced Kray-jif I have no idea.  I also feel the need to mention that this is not a teen book for 'tweens or younger teens, there is low level sexual content that is best left for the older teens - not being a prude, some things are just better left until teens are over the age of 15 or 16.

If you are a fan of steampunk and enjoy well built stories with a lot of mythology behind them then you will no doubt enjoy Innocent darkness - just don't expect the tale to be perfectly well crafted, and expect the odd thing that just seems wrong.  This is a fantastic effort for a debut novel, and hopefully for the next book in the series the editor will pay a little more attention to what is going on and find the mistakes that have the potential to put readers off.

If you like this book then try:
  • The girl in the steel corset by Kady Cross
  • The black unicorn by Tanith Lee
  • Bewitching by Alex Flinn
  • The treachery of beautiful things by Ruth Long
  • Crown duel by Sherwood Smith
  • The halfmen of O by Maurice Gee
  • Banished by Sophie Littlefield
  • Burn bright by Marianne de Pierres
  • The unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
  • The demon trappers daughter by Jana Oliver

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Guinea Pig Party by Holly Surplice

Fun and bouncy counting books can be hard to find as some of the authors and illustrators take themselves way too seriously – but rest assured Guinea Pig Party is not one of those books!  The guinea pigs are individual little characters that help to bring the story to life, and all the little things they do at the party are things that children do so it should help them to connect with the story really well. 

This is one of the better counting books for children – although of course, like most of the counting books for children, it counts down from 10 to 1 rather than counting up from 1 to 10.  A fun little read and a great first introduction to numbers for preschoolers, in a totally fun and engaging story that also manages to squeeze in some great rhymes as well!

If you like this book then try:
  • One is a snail, ten is a crab by April Pulley Sayre & Jeff Sayre; illustrated by Randy Cecil
  • 1-2-3 peas by Keith Baker
  • One two that’s my shoe by Alison Murray
  • One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish by Dr. Seuss
  • The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Wibbly Pig has 10 balloons by Mick Inkpen
  • Ten tiny babies by Karen Katz
  • One, two, cockatoo! By Sarah Garson
  • One funky monkey by Stacey McCleary; illustrated by Sue deGennaro
  • My first 1 2 3 by Pamela Allen

Reviewed by Brilla

Dog in charge by K.L. Going; illustrated by Dan Santat

Dog is smart and can do lots of tricks and loves his family – and when his family leaves him in charge of the house while they go to the store he is sure it will be an easy job to keep the five cats in line.  Maybe Dog shouldn’t have been so certain, because as soon as the family is gone the cats get into all sorts of mischief and leave him with lots to clean up.  But will Dog be able to clean up before the family comes home?

This is a delightful little picture book with colourful illustrations and a simple yet charming storyline.  Dog is a lovely little character, and it is hilarious to see him wearing a little tutu while he dances at the beginning of the story, and the cats are a mixed bunch with individual characteristics that are like so many of the cats I know.  This lovely little book will appeal to older preschoolers who can pick up that the cats have made a mistake and that Dog wants to fix it.  A simple message about taking responsibility for your actions.

If you like this book then try:
  • Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
  • Yip!  Snap!  Yap! by Charles Fuge
  • Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus by Mo Willems
  • Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack by Lynley Dodd
  • Peggy by Anna Walker
  • Officer Buckle & Gloria by Peggy Rathmann
  • Surfer chick by Kristy Dempsey; illustrated by Henry Cole

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda

For Gene every day among the people is another day when he might be discovered, when they might realise that he is not like them, that he doesn't have their speed, that he can't see in the dark they way they can - that he is really prey.  It is a knife edge of danger, one that he has walked alone since his father was attacked seven years earlier and ran away into the light to stop from becoming a monster.  Genes routines keep him safe, the skills he has learnt help him to blend in, to stay undetected, but all his training growing up and his careful actions to date can not protect him from the Hunt. 

For the first time in a decade there is going to be a hunt, where some lucky people will be trained and allowed to hunt the hepers, the humans that the people have hunted almost to extinction.  Spirited away to join the other hunters Gene lives with the knowledge that at any moment the people could realise that there is a heper in their midst and tear him apart.  It is a dangerous time for Gene, especially when some of the others start to become suspicious.  Caught far away from his supplies, and in the heart of enemy territory, Gene must use all his skills and cunning if he wants to survive the hunt.

The Hunt is the first book in a trilogy and holds a lot of promise for the rest of the series.  The writing style takes a little getting used to as there is a lot of explaining as part of the story, to the point where at times it feels like Gene is narrating his own story like a movie, but you can get passed that if you keep reading and the story soon drags you in to the point that you don't really care anymore.  The world Fukuda has created is rich in detail and he has obviously thought about how the rest of the series will run, and what the mythology of his world is.  The time period could be the Earth's future, or it could be a parallel world, it doesn't matter which because the story is well told with anchors to our own world that make it seem more real and easy to visualise.

This is not a friendly take on vampires, they are quick and deadly and are portrayed as brutal and efficient killers.  Fukuda carefully avoids the label vampire, calling them the people instead, but they have a lot of the trademarks of a vampire - so I feel pretty safe calling them such.  The Hunt is action packed and has little twists and turns, and the action builds with the story, starting a little slow and then building to a crashing climax.  This is a book for fans of action with just a touch of horror.

If you like this book then try:
  • Enclave by Ann Aguirre
  • Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
  • Variant by Robison Wells
  • Anna dressed in blood by Kendare Blake
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • Every other day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Angel arias by Marianne de Pierres
  • Rot and ruin by Jonathan Maberry
  • Mr. Monday by Garth Nix

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I hunt killers by Barry Lyga

Jazz lives in a small town where he is the local celebrity, not because he is famous, but more because his father is the local son who turned out to be a serial killer - possibly the most infamous serial killer in the history of the good ol' US of A.  Lobo's Nod is a quiet little town with one major serial killer to it's name, and it seems impossible that such a small town could produce more than one such killer, but when first one and then another body is found Jazz becomes convinced that there is a second killer on the loose.  Drawn into the investigation by his curiosity, Jazz soon realises that he may be the only person who can break the mystery of who the killer is and where they will strike next, something that doesn't sit well with the local law enforcement.  Jazz has been on the outside looking in for years, and now he may finally be able to prove he is not his fathers son - but by working so hard to prove he's not, Jazz may just prove that he is.

This was an amazing read, one that I had trouble putting down once I started because the tension and action starts on the first page and doesn't let up until the last.  Jazz is a like able character with a clear voice that leads the story forward by sheer force of his personality, and his relationships with Connie and Howie lead to come moments of tense drama, and some laugh out loud moments of sheer disbelief.  The characters and their relationships are well thought out and drive the story forward - rather than acting as a distraction.  The plot is also well thought out and there are some nice twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end, keeping you wondering who the killer really is and when they will reveal themselves.

Forensic style books for teenagers can either be very good or very bad - depending on how much they depend on the "facts" to keep the story afloat.  I hunt killers is one of the better ones, bringing elements of human psychology to the mix, with Lyga having a deft touch with human emotions and human interactions.  Jazz is an intense character who is battling his inner (and outer) demons, and with the backstory supplied it is not surprising that he turned out the way he did.  A thoroughly enjoyable beginning to a new series, and I look forward to the sequel, Game, coming out in 2013.

If you like this book then try:
  • The book of blood and shadow by Robin Wasserman
  • Acceleration by Graham McNamee
  • Crime seen by Jenny Pausacker
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • Guy Langman, crime scene procrastinator by Josh Berk
  • Dead to you by Lisa McMann

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The line by Teri Hall

Rachel and her mother have lived on the Property for as long as she can remember, and they have always lived in the shadow of the Line.  The Line is what keeps them safe from Away, the place that everyone is taught to fear, a place where monsters are said to roam.  Rachel can't help being curious about Away, she studies all the information she can find, and one day she even tries to cross the Line so she can see the Away for herself - but the Line is too strong for her to cross.  Her attempt brings her to the attention of Ms. Moore who owns the Property, and although she benefits from that attention, Rachel still knows that it is a punishment and that she has to be careful.  That knowledge is not enough to keep them all safe though, because Rachel and her mother are making some people suspicious, and when Rachel finds a corder with a message from Away her actions bring even more suspicion on them both.

The Line is deftly written with an interesting punchy style of writing that keeps the action fast paced and moving forward - sometimes leaving you to wonder when you last took a breath.  Unlike some dystopian novels written at the moment (as the big trend seems to be for dystopian novels at the moment), the Line is not bogged down with great amounts of description of the past and the present, the story is very much in the now which made it even more appealing as some of the books go on and on (and on and on and on and on).  Rachel is a strong lead character and has the faults and flaws you would expect of a teenager, and the cast built around her are also very real - with real secrets, real doubts, and other aspects that makes them very real for the reader.

In some respects the Line is a very lightly written story, taking only 219 pages to get the story across, but those 219 pages pack a huge punch and I am alreacy looking forward to reading the sequel Away to see what happens next.  A great read and one that should appeal to readers who like their dystopian novels to be well grounded and believable - especially in a near future rather than a distant future.

If you like this book then try:
  • Away by Teri Hall
  • The selection by Kiera Cass
  • Ashfall by Mike Mullin
  • Slated by Teri Terry
  • Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
  • Life as we knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • Nest of lies by Heather McQuillan
  • Outside by Shalini Boland
  • The always war by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Variant by Robison Wells
  • Eve by Anna Carey

Reviewed by Brilla