Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Private Oz by James Patterson and Michael White

Private Oz is the latest offering in the Private series from James Patterson and his co-authors, and this one was set a little closer to home for this Kiwi reader.  Set in Sydney, one of Australia's most famous cities, the action kicks off as Craig Gisto and the team are celebrating the launch of Private in style - just before a young victim crashes through the door and dies.  The resulting police circus brings Craig into contact with his cousin Mark, a senior cop who would like nothing more than to see Craig crash and burn in spectacular fashion - a sentiment that is not helped when the Deputy Commissioner of the NSW Police decides that Private will be involved in the case right from the start.

Finding out who the young victim is is just the beginning, Private soon finds itself tangled in a series of cases, making for a busy first week.  There is the music mega star who is convinced that he is going to join the famous 'Club 27' and die on his 27th birthday.  There is the wife whose husband has gone missing, a wife who doesn't want the police involved because she is not convinced that all of of his businesses are legit.  Overshadowing everything is the case that has the police and Private on edge, a murder in a wealthy suburb, a murder that is just the beginning.  Trying to get a private investigation company up and running is challenging enough, but to try and do it when a dangerous killer is on the loose, and your cousin is actively trying to stop you working the case - now that's a serious challenge.

Private is an interesting series, not only because there are lots of different co-authors for the series, but also because of the local flavour in each of the books and the way different characters are used to tie the different offices of Private together - in this case it was Justine Smith.  It was particularly fun reading this one as Australia is just across the "ditch" from New Zealand and it felt more like a local story than those set in England or America - though let me reassure you that New Zealander's do not have a "twang". 

I did find that Private Oz was a little more disjointed than most novels by James Patterson, it lacked some of the flow that you usually find, and while there are "warnings" when you are reading in the past, it still took a while to get used to the story jumping around a little.  I also felt there were a few too many active storylines in this book, it took about half the book for the stories to really gel with each other and settle down - but that could come down really strongly to personal reading tastes.  This is another great co-authored book from James Patterson, and another great addition to the Private stable - now all I have to do is wait for my mother to finish so we can talk about it.

If you like this book then try:
  • Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • Private London by James Patterson and Mark Pearson
  • Private games by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan
  • Private # 1 suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • Private Berlin by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan
  • Kiss the girls by James Patterson
  • Kill me if you can by James Patterson and Marshall Kamp
  • The postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund

Reviewed by Brilla

Girl of nightmares by Kendare Blake

Girl of nightmares is the sequel to Anna dressed in blood so there are ***SPOILERS*** in this review if you have not read the first book.  So don't read any further if you like reading things in series order.

It has been six months since Anna dressed in blood sacrificed herself to save Cas, Thomas and Carmel from the Obeahman.  Six months of a somewhat normal life for Cas, he has settled and stayed in one place, a novelty after years of being on the road chasing ghosts.  Thomas and Carmel seem well settled as a couple, even though their relationship isn't clearly defined and Carmel still manages to stay Queen Bee at the school, a social butterfly even though her relationship with Thomas should make her a social pariah.  Things are working, things are settled, so why is Cas seeing Anna in his dreams, and why is he seeing her in the real world?  It is small things at first, a glimpse of a reflection, her face imposed on someone else's, but then it gets more serious and Cas begins to wonder if he is sane.  The truth is worse than insanity though, Anna is trapped in Hell, and every moment is torment and torture - and now that he knows the truth Cas feels compelled to do something.

When his usual sources of information come up short, it seems as though there is nothing that Cas can do to rescue Anna from her fate - but then a mysterious photo arrives from England that suddenly opens a whole new world of possibilities.  Gideon doesn't seem willing or able to help him, but someone knows about Cas and what he can do, and they have given him a glimmer of hope - as does a meeting with a local witch that leaves Cas with more questions than answers.  What is so special about his athame, and why is it so important to other people?  Even though everyone and everything seems to be getting in the way, Cas is determined to reach Anna - but is he prepared to pay the cost?

Girl of nightmares was a suitably scary and gory sequel to Anna dressed in blood, a breakthrough first novel that captured the imagination of readers all over the world.  It was a treat to come across a book that was so original, and that managed to blend together a romance with a horror story - something I would have thought was impossible.  The sequel is just as original, blending together the best elements of the first book with a storyline that both continues the story and grows it - and there is a feeling that there could be another sequel in the works, though maybe not a sequel so much as a book set in the same reality. 

It was somewhat funny to see Cas acting like a typical teenager, rebelling against what he is told pretty much just because he can - but it can't be easy carrying such a great responsibility at such a young age.  This book also provides more background for the mythology of Blake's world, rounding out the reality a little more and providing some tantalising glimpses of what could have been and what might still be.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.

If you like this book then try:
  • Anna dressed in blood by Kendare Blake
  • The unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
  • Thyla by Kate Gordon
  • The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • Daughter of smoke and bone by Laini Taylor
  • Thirteen days to midnight by Patrick Carman
  • Burn bright by Marianne de Pierres
  • Something strange and deadly by Susan Dennard
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Rot and ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, October 29, 2012

Last to die by Tess Gerritsen

Last to die is the tenth book in the "Rizzoli and Isles" series so there may be some ***SPOILERS*** in the following review - if you like to read things in order then do not read this review until you are up to this book in the series.  If you don't mind reading things out of order then read on.

It starts with murder - not one, not two, but three teenagers survive the cold blooded murder of their foster parents.  Three teenagers that have already survived the death of their natural parents, teenagers who find themselves brought together at a special school in Maine called Evensong, a school where they can begin to heal from what they have been through, where they can learn to cope.  But there are dark forces stirring in the background, someone wants these kids dead, someone who will stop at nothing to get to them and finish what they started - a dark force that is very good at hiding in the shadows.  Drawn into the murder and the mystery are homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and forensic pathologist Maura Isles.

It is a difficult time for both Rizzoli and Isles.  Rizzoli is working on a team with the charming Detective Crowe as the lead detective, and right from the start it is a "fun" investigation with Crowe using her motherly charm to try and reach one of the victims.  Crowe also fixates on one suspect, something that doesn't sit right with Jane.  At home, things are going from bad to worse as her father has decided that he wants to come "home" and live with his wife again - just as his wife is about to marry another man.  Although getting caught in the middle is the last thing she wants, Jane finds herself trying to keep everyone on an even keel despite all the emotions and drama that are being stirred up.

Things are just as complicated for Maura Isles, she has finally called off her affair with Daniel Brophy, but there is still a sense there, a connection that she misses.  She is still also feeling the cold shoulder from most of the police force after she testified against one of their own, an act that has also driven a wedge between her and Jane.  A break in Maine seems like just the thing, a chance for her to spend time with Julian at Evensong, but she turns up at the school just as all hell breaks loose.

Last to die is another fine addition to the Rizzoli and Isles series, although like some other people who have reviewed the title, I found it a little hard to get into the story in the beginning because I had trouble remembering some of the "relationship" things mentioned - but that could just be because I read so many books each year and the memory has gotten a little hazy.  Once I was into the story however, I was really into the story and resented every moment that I had to put the book down to do other things.  The story was not predictable, and the ending was a nice surprise, which is a rarity in these days of mass produced pulp fiction where thrillers and murder mysteries are pumped out at a rapid rate of knots. 

Gerritsen writes very strong characters and has a very firm grasp of how people interact with each other and the genuine emotions that people have.  At times the dialogue seemed a little wooden which didn't sit very well as her books are usually so well written - and there was the odd editing mistake that jarred a little.  There has been a shift in the books since The Mephisto Club that adds a darker, more "fantasy", element to the series, but it has also added another dimension to the novels which could have gotten quite formulaic or "stale" with just a straight forensics/cop premise.  Not the best book in the series for me, but it was a great read and held the mystery and suspense right to the end.

If you like this book then try:
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • The silent girl by Tess Gerritsen
  • Low pressure by Sandra Brown
  • Worst case by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • A deeper darkness by J.T. Ellison
  • Swimsuit by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Too many elephants in this house by Ursula Dubosarsky; illustrated by Andrew Joyner

Eric's house is full to the brim with elephants, they are absolutely everywhere!  There is one in the living room, one in the kitchen, one in the bathroom, and even one in the bedroom.  Then one day Eric's mother says they have to go, but how can Eric get rid of his elephants?  But what could Eric possibly do with elephants, could he take them to the zoo, or back to Africa, or should he let them find a home of their own?

This is a charming picture book that has echoes of Dr. Suess in the way the elephants are drawn, but also in the somewhat absurd premise that you could fit more than one elephant in a house - never mind a whole herd of them! 

I loved this books for its sense of fun and the fact that the author seems to be laughing at herself with the way she writes the story, and that the illustrator seems to be in on the joke because the words and the images seem to match so perfectly.  This is a great read a loud, particularly for little boys who are reluctant to sit still and be read to, because the images are as engaging as the text.  Highly recommended.

If you like this book then try:
  • Cat tale by Michael Hall
  • The terrible plop by Ursula Dubosarsky; illustrated by Andrew Joyner
  • The Queen with the wobbly bottom by Phillip Gwynne; illustrated by Bruce Whatley
  • Let's go for a drive! by Mo Willems
  • Encore for Eleanor by Bill Peet
  • Horton hears a who by Dr.Seuss
  • Wait!  No paint! by Bruce Whatley
  • Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
  • Chester the wordly pig by Bill Peet

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oh, No! by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

In the forest there is a deep, deep hole, and it is the start of some deep, deep trouble! 

When Frog fell into the deep, deep hole he couldn’t get out and when he cried for help Mouse came along but she couldn’t help – and then there were two trapped in the deep, deep hole!  As the other animals try and help Frog and Mouse escape Tiger wanders quietly in the background waiting for his chance to pounce.

This is a beautifully illustrated picture book that has warmth and charm by the bucket load.  The characters are well drawn and show wonderful emotions as they try to help each other and then realise their predicament.  The story has a wonderful blend of the expected (with the language) and the unexpected (what happens next) – and there is a huge surprise ending!

I loved this picture book and it is one that I would recommend for reading one-to-one with your little person, or to read to a group of lots of little people.  This is a real treasure and will be a great addition to family bookshelves.

If you like this book then try:
  • My friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann
  • Kitten’s first full moon by Kevin Henkes
  • Bone dog by Eric Rohmann
  • We’re going on a bear hunt by Michael Rosen; illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
  • Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho and Holly Meade
  • Joseph had a little overcoat by Simms Taback
  • The lion and the mouse by Jerry Pinkney
  • Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmanm

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Origin by Jessica Khoury

Pia has spent her whole life in Little Cam, surrounded by the scientists and support staff that she calls "Aunt" and "Uncle".  It is a peaceful existence, with their little scientific compound surrounded by an electric fence which keeps the rainforest and its inhabitants away from the camp.  Pia lives an interesting life, learning about science and mathematics from her Aunts and Uncles in the hopes that she will become a scientist like them in the near future, a goal that Pia strives to meet as she and her kind are the whole purpose of the camp - the only problem is that Pia is the only one of her kind. 

Born through scientific research, although she was carried by a mother like any other child, Pia has skin that can not be cut, she has heightened senses of sight and hearing, she can run faster than most people, she can not drown, she can not suffocate - but she also can not live a free life.  Although she never realised, Pia is a prisoner in her guilded cage of science.  The scientists have great plans for her future, and she is so precious to them that they can not allow her to explore the world beyond Little Cam, even the small slice of the world on the other side of the fence. 

Pia has never complained about her life of wanted more, because she never knew there was more to want, but after she escapes one night and meets Eio that begins to change.  Eio is unlike anyone she has meet before, and when she begins to see the world through his eyes, and the eyes of his people, it becomes clear that science is not the only answer.  Torn between two worlds, Pia becomes increasingly confused, especially when she begins to realise that the people around her are keeping dreadful secrets - secrets that may be too much for her to bear once she learns the truth.

Origin is hands down one of the best novels I have read this year - not just teen novels, but adult novels as well.  Jessica Khoury has produced a breath taking first novel that grabs you from the start and keeps you thoroughly engrossed until the end.  Like really good novels, Origin has a strong voice that makes you connect with Pia immediately, seeing her world through her eyes.  At first it seems as though there is a golden glow around her world, her enthusiasm for her life and work is all you can taste and feel, but as the novel progresses you can feel that glamour washing off, you can feel the faltering as Pia begins to realise some of the truths that you as a reader (and as a more worldly person) pick up a little quicker.

The world of Origin is perfect for the story, and it takes a little while to pick up that it is set in our current world (okay, maybe I was a little slow, but I have been reading a lot of books set in alien worlds recently).  The characters are fantastic, and there is a lot of realistic interpersonal relationships between the characters that just make it even more real.  This is a thoroughly good read and I hope that it is not the only writing of this quality that we will see from Khoury - enjoy!

If you like this book then try:
  • What's left of me by Kat Zhang
  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
  • Variant by Robison Wells
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
  • Beta by Rachel Cohn
  • Anna dressed in blood by Kendare Blake
  • Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, October 22, 2012

Endlessly by Kiersten White

Endlessly is the last book in the Paranormalcy trilogy and as such this review contains ***SPOILERS*** about what has happened in the previous books.  If you like to read things in order without finding out what happens later then stop reading now because there are ***SPOILERS***.  If you have read the other books in the series then hopefully you will find the following review helpful.

Everything finally seems to be settling down for Evie, she has an amazing boyfriend who accepts her for who she is, and she is finally free of IPCA and all the things they wanted her to do.  She is living what could even be called a "normal" life, with normal friends who know nothing about who she really is, what she can do - and they have no idea about all the things that go bump in the night.  At times it has been a balancing act to keep "normal" Evie and IPCA Evie separate, and that balance is thrown out badly when the Queen of the Unseelie Court appears and steals Lend away when he pretends to be Evie.  This one moment throws Evie into an uncomfortable alliance with Reth, and an odd alliance with Jack.  Everything that once seemed so clear is now anything but, and all Evie knows is that to get Lend back she has to work with beings and people she can't trust.

Evie is being drawn closer and closer to her destiny, her fate, the creation of a gate.  Both sides want Evie to create a gate, but to do that she has to draw souls into herself and use the energy - something she has vowed to never do.  When strange things start happening with IPCA Evie must make a decision once and for all - will she be a puppet for those around her, or will she make choices for herself and live with the consequences?  And what price is too high for her to save those around her and the supernaturals who see her as their saviour - will she be able to make the sacrifices she needs to make?

Endlessly is the final book in the Paranormalcy trilogy, and Kiersten White has managed to pull off a bit of a rarity - she has managed to complete her series with an ending that is not too cliched, that has closure, doesn't finish too neatly, and that leaves you satisfied.  Across the series Evie has continued to grow, not only with the knowledge of who and what she is, but also in the sense that she has grown into her responsibilities and been able to make some rather mature decisions.  There are still times when you feel like shaking her and telling her to grow up, or when you can't help but roll your eyes because of something she says or does - but can you really blame her for the way she acts sometimes when she has so much pressure on her shoulders? 

This was a fun read and I enjoyed the blend of mythology, drama, romance, friendship, and reweaving of some of the classic fantasy novel characters.  White is a good author who doesn't cheat her readers, and hopefully there will be more books from her in the future.  Happy reading, hopefully you will enjoy the end as much as I did.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway

Alex has been struggling to make life in the real world work for her. After years of therapy and medication, it's disconcerting, to say the least, to discover that she really had been seeing trolls under bridges...

Her first inkling is what happens when she autopsies a body - in her brand new role as coroner/medical examiner in a small town. She's pretty sure the cops, who brought in the body, had heard about her past and were just being nasty. Until the body reanimates and walks out, she ends up with some interesting new 'ink', and Mrs Finnegan, waiting in the cooler, begins to talk.

The chief sends her off to Precinct 13, where this sort of thing is understood. And that's Alex's introduction to the paranormal world. Oh, then there's crop circles, mutilated cows, unexplained flying objects...

It's difficult to tell you why this books is a good read, without giving things away. I can say that there's a nice cast of supporting characters, and enough going on that you'll be anxious for the sequel.

If you like this book then try:
  • Dark currents by Jacqueline Carey.
  • Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire.
  • Urban shaman by C. E. Murphy.
  • Wraith by Phaedra Wheldon.
  • Demons not included by Cheyenne McCray.
  • The iron hunt by Marjorie M. Liu.
  • Storm front by Jim Butcher.
Reviewed by Thalia.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book by Whoopi Goldberg

Many, many years ago I purchased this book in one of those buy-5-for-hardly-any-money deals... at least, I think that's how it appeared on my shelves.

Autobiographical essays on various subjects make up the content of this book. It isn't a strict autobiography / memoir - but it does offer insights into Whoopi's personal history and ways of thinking.

And, it makes it you think about things yourself. How you became who you are. The things that bug you so much, you can't rationalise it. Words that offend you - or words that offend others, and why. Religion. Politics... It's all here.

As you'd expect from Whoopi Goldberg, it's funny. But, it's also bittersweet. And touching. And it is definitely worth reading.

If you like this, try out:
  • Sh*t my father says by Justin Halpern.
  • Forever Erma by Erma Bombeck.
  • Any David Sedaris.
  • Any PJ O'Rourke.
  • Any Laurie Notaro.
  • The life and times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson.
~ Reviewed by Thalia.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Charley's first night by Amy Hest, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Oh bliss... how could you not fall in love with little Charley, a puppy? Oxenbury's illustrations exude warmth and tenderness, as always, and are perfectly matched by the text of Charley's first night at home with Henry and his family.

There are accidents (oops) and Henry's parents' rules about caring for their new puppy. And, then there's Henry, who is obviously enamoured with Charley, and determined to be the best dog owner ever - to make Charley happy and at home.

I dare you to read this one and not go all soppy over it. You will say 'ooohhh' and 'aaahhh', and crinkle your nose in delight.

If you want more puppy delight, then try out these picture books:
  • Sleepy Pendoodle by Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Julie Vivas.
  • Hello, puppy! by Jane Cowen-Fletcher.
  • "Let's get a pup!" by Bob Graham.
  • The new puppy by Catherine and Laurence Anholt.
~ Reviewed by Thalia.

Dragon bound by Thea Harrison

Heads up: he's a dragon. Well, technically THE dragon. She's a half-wyr (ie were...) something. He has been around forever (pretty much literally) and, as a dragon, has a hoarde. And enemies. Magic enemies. Evil enemies. The sort that can force an otherwise sane half-wyr to STEAL something from the dragon. That's just heading for a whole heap of badness...

However, she isn't a doormat. And he has a weird sense of humour... So, he doesn't get around to rending her limb from limb on their first meeting.

He held up a finger. "First, you're the only one who's ever successfully stolen from me." He held up aonther finger. "Second, I am not a forgiving creature. In fact, you're the only one I've ever forgiven before." He put up a third finger. "And third, I like vengeance. I'm looking forward to ripping apart the person who gave you that charm and who ended up with my penny."

As always, it's the relationships that sell a novel for me - and not just that between the romantic leads, although that is the most important, obviously.

Dragos and Pia's growing relationship, and their compromises and getting used to being a couple, is fascinating. Dragos has to work so hard to be a 21st-century male, when he is a creature from the beginnings of time - and very, very, used to having everything his own way.
Pia has been trained since birth to trust no one with her secrets, so has to overcome some deep-seated fear to let Dragos fully into her heart and mind.

Although Dragos is one scary dude and, at times, Pia is scared of him, she doesn't back down from confrontation. 

“I am cursed with a terminal case of curiosity," he said. "I am jealous, selfish, acquisitive, territorial and possessive. I have a terrible temper, and I know I can be a cruel son of a bitch." He cocked his head. "I used to eat people, you know.”
“I had a conversation with somebody. It was an epiphany.” His voice was rueful. He rocked her. “From that point on I swore I would never eat something that could talk.”
Then, there are Dragos' sentinels and their relationship with Dragos, each other, and Pia.
All very fascinating!

But, what I most want to find out about it is... what happens next! I want to meet Peanut, because so far, he's pretty amazing.

If you like this one, try:
  • G. A. Aiken's Dragon kin series, starting with Dragon actually.
  • Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series, starting with Slave to sensation.
  • Jennifer Estep's Elemental assassin novels, starting with Spider's bite.
  • Shannon Butcher's Sentinel wars, starting with Burning alive.
  • Kresley Cole's Immortals after dark series, staring with A hunger like no other.
  • Gena Showalter's Atlantis series, starting with Heart of the dragon.
~ Reviewed by Thalia.

Wild tea cosies by Loani Prior

This month, I needed to knit a couple of tea cosies, and Wild tea cosies appealed because of it's um, wildness. These are not polite little tea cosies, minding their own business, just keeping tea warm. No. These are in-your-face statements of decoration and art. Yes, art! They are bright and beautiful and oh-so-tempting to knit... So, I did. The Carmen Miranda cosy on the cover. And it was so much fun to knit! And looks so wonderful completed.

You cannot be serious with this book - and it caters for those who adore knitting-in-the-round (like me), those who can only cope with straight knitting, those who crochet... But, some are so tempting you'll be prepared to break out of your comfort zone and try out something different. And, it's a tea cosy for god's sake!, so it doesn't really matter if you stuff it up. And, they're quite small, really, so not too intimidating for the novice / experimenter.

Other fab tea cosy books you might also be sucked in by are:
  • Loani Prior's other titles: Really wild tea cosies and How tea cosies changed the world.
  • Tea cozies 1, Tea cozies 2, Tea cozies 3 by Guild of Master Craftsman.
  • Techno cozies by Sue Culligan.
  • Coffee cozies by Guild of Master Craftsman.
  • Pretty little cozies published by Lark Books.
~ Reviewed by Thalia.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What a goddess wants by Stephanie Julian

What happens to gods and goddesses when they aren't worshipped anymore? When their believers have died out? Or their roles have been usurped by other gods?

This is the world of the Forgotten Goddesses series, with What a goddess wants being the first in the series.

Tessa is an Etruscan goddess - she once was the Goddess of Dawn, but was elbowed out by the invading Roman goddess, Aurora. Charun, god of the underworld, has plans to capture forgotten deities and gather their powers, so they he and the undead, can leave Aitas (the underworld) and invade our world. Which would be all sorts of bad.

Cal is a Cimmerian warrior who - with his better judgement, but not that sensible - becomes entangled in Tessa's struggles. Oh, and the super-hot sex between the two of them is pretty persuasive.

Not only is the sex hot - best they've had (of course, that's a typical romance novel trope) - but, it results in Tessa regaining some of her power, and Cal can feel Tessa - Cimmerians have no physical feelings, which makes them better warriors.

Now, I prefer my hot-and-steamy-explicit-sex-scenes books to have more plot and character development than sex... (some sexually explicit books sort of have a bit of a plot thrown in and sketched around the sex scenes). And, this mostly delivers. Oh course, being divine and/or really-really-long-lived does mean that you've got less scruples / qualms about sex-ing whenever and wherever the mood strikes. But, still...some of the times and places do seem a little bit far-fetched.

That said, it's an engaging read, good for those times when you need something light - but sexy - to read. Enough so, that I'm on the waiting lists for the next two books.

If you like this one, or the sound of it, try out:
  • Divine series by PC Cast.
  • The redemption of Althalus by David & Leigh Eddings. Fantasy, not romance.
  • Lords of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter.
  • Dark breed series by Sable Grace.
  • Mageverse series by Angela Knight.
  • Dark-hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon.
  • Job: a comedy of justice by Robert A Heinlein. Not a romance, but a thought-provoking fantasy.
~ Reviewed by Thalia.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

All wound up: the yarn harlot writes for a spin by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Knitting humour! Perfect for the knitter with a sense of humour, which I like to think I am...

I've enjoyed the Yarn Harlot's previous books - well, the ones I've read (which is most of them), so I was looking forward to this number - to read while having a break from the act of knitting.

In essays and ponderings, Pearl-McPhee shares personal glimpses into her life and knitting habits. By the end of it, I felt normal! And this, for someone who knits a lot, is reassuring. I now realise that my yarn stash isn't as bad as the Yarn Harlot's. But, there are similarities. I completely get her personal filters. You know, what you'd really like to say to someone, but what comes out of you mouth is so much more polite. And, I am completely with her when it comes to gauge. Gauge can be so aggravating that I don't usually bother with a swatch (gasp!)...

Thanks, Yarn Harlot, for letting me into your world - a world of dorky knitting people - so I don't feel alone.

If you like this one, try out:
  • The other Yarn Harlot books... trust me, if you've enjoyed one, you'll want to read them all.
  • Knitticisms-- and other purls of wisdom edited by Michael Dregni.
  • Book by Whoopi Goldberg. Ok, it's not about knitting, but it is also a collection of personal thoughts on various subjects.
  • Knits for nerds by Toni Carr.
~ Reviewed by Thalia. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Redoubt by Mercedes Lackey

This is the fourth book in The Collegium Chronicles from Mercedes Lackey so there will be some spoilers in this review, if you like to read series in order without ***SPOILERS*** then don't read this review any further until you have read Foundation, Intrigue and Changes.

With a royal wedding at the Palace, the Palace grounds and the Collegia are packed with extra people there for the ceremony and the entertainment.  It is a lavish three day affair that means Mags and the rest of the students from the Collegia are free to spend (most) of their time anyway they like, except for the few times when they have to appear in demonstration games or play musical instruments.  It is a time for relaxation and spending times with friends, and even though Mags is enjoying the break, he does feel a little bit guilty that he is not working hard in support of Nikolas and Valdemar.

When he is given the chance to return to the pawn shop it is a welcome relief, especially when Nikolas sets him up on his own and leaves him in charge of the shop.  All the hard work doesn't leave much time for a social life, but even with work and study he manages to find some time to spend with those he loves.  When he begins to feel as though he is being watched when he leaves the store, he doesn't pay it much heed, except to take evasive routes until the feeling goes away - but then it builds to the point where he can't stand it anymore.  Then one day he wakes up and realises that he is not where he is supposed to be, and that he is travelling farther and farther from home with each day.

Mags has always wondered where he came from, but as he has built up a family at the Collegia it has weighed less and less on his mind.  The strangers who have come to Valdemar seem to be more than a little fixated on him, but it hasn't made sense so he has tried to ignore them and what their interest might mean - but now he is far from home and his friends, and he can't even reach Dallen.  Far from home, and with no ability to make contact with his friends and allies, Mags must find a way to survive and get back to the only "home" he has ever known.

This is the fourth novel in the series and the action is moving forward, providing more background for who Mags is and where he has come from.  His past has been hinted at in the earlier books, and this feels very much like a bridging novel, a book that bridges the past (being the first three books) and it is now moving into the present, or at least heading where Mercedes wants the story to go.  I have been enjoying this series because you don't know how many books are going to be in the series, so I can't sit there going this is the second book in the series so the next one will finish it off - you just have to wait and see what happens!

I have to confess that the icing on the cake with this book was the dedication - to Anne McCaffrey - thank you Mercedes for recognising the lose of one of the great talents of fantasy and science fiction.

If you like this book then try:
  • Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
  • Magics pawn by Mercedes Lackey
  • Winds of fate by Mercdes Lackey
  • The Elvenbane by Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

Reviewed by Brilla

Away by Teri Hall

Away is the sequel to The Line and as such this review contains ***SPOILERS*** about The Line.  If you like to read series in order then stop reading this review now and read The Line first - however if you are not fussy about reading series in order then keep reading.

After crossing the Line, Rachel now has to face the dangers of Away, a place where there are strange creatures and people with strange abilities that are more than a little intimidating.  To make matters worse she has escaped from her side of the Line, only to find that there are people from Away who want nothing to do with her because she is a Reg, someone who has no special abilities.  It is also difficult for her to adjust to the world around her, a place that has not had any real technology since the Line was raised and the people on the other side were left to fend for themselves.  It seems as though she has traded one set of dangers for another with little reward, but then she finds out that her father is still alive, although he is no longer in the camp and there is a chance he may have been captured. 

Away continues the story of The Line with the same short, punchy prose and bared to the bones storytelling.  The storyline continues the story of Rachel, but it also weaves in other stories and new characters that make the story feel a little more "meaty", that it has a little more depth - the ending also leaves the distinct impression that there could be a third book in the series to come.  An enjoyable read, and a nice addition to the dystopian novel genre, particularly for readers who struggle a little to read massive tomes.

If you like this book then try:
  • The Line 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
  • Outside by Shalini Boland
  • The always war by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Eve by Anna Carey

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The recruit: The graphic novel by Robert Muchamore with John Aggs and Ian Edginton

The recruit: The graphic novel is both an adaptation and an update of the novel of the same name.  James Choke is a troubled boy who gets into more trouble than normal at school, and who seems to be on track for a criminal record - much like his mum, who has things stolen to order for her "clients".  Life isn't easy for James and his younger sister Lauren, but they get by.  That all changes when James and Lauren come home to find their mother dead - and the siblings are split up. 

Just when it seems as though things can't get any worse, James wakes up to find himself in a strange school where no one will talk to him because he is wearing an orange shirt.  Things get even stranger when James learns that CHERUB is not your average school - the students are all training to be agents, because no one suspects the children.  If James completes his basic training he will become a CHERUB agent and have the opportunity to take part in missions where he could literally save a life.

This is one of the better graphic novel adaptations I have read, mainly because it finds a good balance between retelling the story with enough detail, but it also keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace.  I love the CHERUB series, mainly because the series doesn't treat its teen readers like they are idiots, and Muchamore doesn't dumb down his storylines.  This graphic novel adaptation should appeal to readers of the CHERUB series, as well as readers who have yet to enjoy a Muchamore adventure - and hopefully there will be more graphic novel adaptations as the series is really addictive and the graphic novels recognise that some readers struggle to get through the rather weighty tomes that make up the CHERUB series.

If you like this graphic novel adaptation then try:
  • Daniel X: the manga by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Maximum ride: the manga by James Patterson
  • Witch & Wizard: Battle for Shadowland by James Patterson
  • Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz and Kanako Damerum and Yuzuru Takasaki
  • Point blanc by Anthony Horowitz and Kanako Damerum and Yuzuru Takasaki
  • Uglies: Shay's story by Scott Westerfeld and Devin Grayson and Steven Cummings

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Jackson Oz was on the fast track at Columbia University, a PhD student going places - but then he noticed what he called HAC, and when he tried to make people listen to him his fast track derailed.  What is HAC you might ask, it's Human Animal Conflict, and over the years Oz has watched the numbers of animal attacks on people escalate, an ever increasing tide that no one else seems to notice.  On a trip to Africa he makes a mind blowing discovery that will change everything he knows about HAC, and will start a whirlwind of new ideas and new discoveries about HAC - ideas and discoveries that are mostly ignored by the main stream media and the government.  Fast forward and things are changing, the attacks are more frequent, and Oz is suddenly not the social and academic pariah he once was - but has the change come to late?

Zoo is an amazing read, one that totally blew my mind and also totally creeped me out.  For the past few years I have been reading books about the Human Animal Bond (HAB) or Human Companion Animal Bond (HCAB), and I have had the opportunity to hear some amazing speakers at the New Zealand Companion Animal Conference who have talked about the unique bond that people have with animals of all shapes and sizes.  This book blows so much of that out the window, not because of what the animals do, but the reasons that they do - the change in the relationship between animals and the people they have had strong bonds with.  In some places I was actually on the edge of my seat thinking no, no, don't do that, don't do it - or the classic horror movie moments of don't open that door!  I was truly on the edge for most of this novel, rushing through chapter after chapter because I just didn't want to put it down!

Calling Zoo science fiction is accurate for the genre (it is scientific "fact" that could be a fact in the future) but to call it science fiction is also almost insulting.  Without wanting to give too much of the story away, what happens is because of people, and it takes Patterson's book into the realm of authors like Michael Crichton who basically said that "we were so busy wondering if we could, that we didn't stop to think if we should".  People make massive changes in the world around us, changes that affect not only us but the wider environment and all the animals that live in it.  Zoo is a work of fiction (at least I seriously hope it is all fiction) but I can so see it happening in our future if we are not careful - we only have one world and we have to protect it.

While there is a strong message in this novel, it is also a gripping novel that is packed with the trademark Patterson action and suspense, and once again Zoo proves the strong writing chemistry between Patterson and Ledwidge.  You will take from this novel what you want - you can take a really strong novel with a fast paced plot and amazing action sequences, or you can take a book with a serious message that is also a damn good read - the choice is yours.

If you like this book then try:
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • Next by Michael Crichton
  • Meg by Steve Alten
  • The rats by James Herbert

Reviewed by Brilla