Saturday, March 30, 2013

Texts from dog by October Jones

Every now and then someone creates a brilliant concept online and manages to translate that concept to a successful book - and Texts from dog is one of those successes.  I came across my first text courtesy of a friend who posed one on Facebook, and from there found more online, much to the laugh-out-loud amusement of the grown ups in my house.  The texts have continued to come and have continued to be a source of lots of laughing and near hysterical moments as the dog seems to be the perfect example of what we think one of our dogs would sound like (the attitude is perfect - especially as the dog in question is a teenager pushing all his limits).

The idea is simple, an owner has taught his dog to text and they exchange texts on smart phones (so you can see the messages going back and forth).  It is a simple idea but some of the texts are hysterical, combining the voice of an exasperated and slightly out of his depth owner with the voice of a cocky dog that thinks he is the top dog in his household.  Some of the texts are familiar as they have already been online, but some of the others are new and were a wonderful new discovery.  The author has a talent for real humour and has obviously spent time with real dogs with attitude, and possibly a teenager or two, and has developed a wonderful "voice" for the dog and owner.

The language is pretty okay, but there are some text cuss terms that may not be suitable for translation for younger readers, but chances are they already know the terms anyway.  The pre-teen in our house loved the texts I read out for him, so the humour does translate to younger readers but you may just want to censor the odd page or two because of the slightly more mature content.  Loads of fun and hopefully there will be other books in the series.

If you like this book then try these other internet to books:
  • Simon's cat by Simon Tofield
  • Simon's cat: Beyond the fence by Simon Tofield
  • How to tell if your cat is plotting to kill you by Matthew Inman
  • Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
  • What would Dewey do?: An Unshelved collection by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A street cat named Bob by James Bowen

Life was not going too great for James, it wasn't all bad, but life is challenging when you are a recovering drug addict and making a hand to mouth existence busking on the streets.  It seems like a bleak place to start a story, but into this story comes a ginger street cat that desperately needs some help.  Barely able to take care of his own needs, James takes on the responsibility of nursing the cat back to health with plans to return him to the streets once he is happy and whole again - but the cat has other ideas.  Christened Bob, the cat makes himself at home and has a huge impact on James and the people he meets.

I picked up A street cat named Bob on the recommendation of one of the people who posted a comment on an earlier post on this blog, thinking it would be like a lot of other books of this type, a little bit of entertainment with some serious bits and some fluffy bits, but it is much more than that.  Books about the human companion animal bond offer a view into someone's life, a personal touch about how animals make an life changing impact on people.  This book is more than just that, it is a very personal story about a life that has gone off the rails, a life that is slowly coming back together and into focus, a life that just needed a little push to come all the way back over to being a bit more "normal".

I loved this book, Bob is such a character, he reminds me a lot of my own ginger ninja Loki and the antics he gets up to, the attitude of being a cat who can go where ever he wants.  I was also grateful to see a story about a cat that formed such a deep relationship of trust and love with his person, as cats often get the bad reputation of being loners that will abandon their home if there is something better on the horizon.  I also admired the fact that James was so willing to share the dark corners of his life, his imperfections, and his failures.  This book wont be to everyone's taste, but if you love a good read about the close relationship between people and their companion animals then you should enjoy A street cat named Bob.

If you like this book then try:
Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sever by Lauren DeStefano

Sever is the third and final book in the Chemical garden trilogy, and as such this review contains ***SPOILERS*** about what happened in the previous books Wither and Fever.  If you like to read books in series order then read the first books in the series before reading any more of this review.

Rhine has been captured, forced into marriage, and then escaped into the world.  She has loved, she has lost, and she has been subjected to humiliation and forced experimentation at the hands of the cold and calculating Housemaster Vaughn.  She has tried to find her brother Rowan and has failed, and now he believes that she is dead and he is killing innocent people with the bombs he uses to destroy the labs that are researching a cure for the virus that ends their lives all too soon.  It is a world of treachery, tight social control, and threats hidden behind the veneer of love and concern. 

For the first time she is not alone in her disquiet, Cecily knows some of the things that have happened, and it seems as though even Linden is learning that things are not what they appear - but just as it seems they are making progress Housemaster Vaughn appears and strips away their sense of safety.  It seems as though their only option is to search for Rowan, to find him and learn the secrets hidden in the research from their parents lab - the research that Rhine now knows is missing from the backyard of the home they lived in.  It is a stressful time for everyone, and with divided loyalties Rhine may fail before she has even begun.

Sever is the final book in a trilogy that has been slowly ramping up the tension, building towards a secret, and ending that will leave you breathless with its finality ... unfortunately it doesn't quite deliver on that promise.  I have been reading the books as they have been released, and have not had time to reread the books in between, so it took me a few chapters to settle back into the story, but once I did it seemed as though the story was building towards a shocking conclusion, one that would be final or a true cliffhanger.  What we got was something of a let down, a weak ending for what had been an intriguing read.  I don't know if teen readers (the target audience) will feel the same way I do, but I do feel a little cheated, like the book was close to finished and DeStefano then rushed through the ending to just get it done.  There was a lot of promise here, and I can see a screen play in a few years or a TV series, but the ending would be re-written for more punch if that were to happen.

This was an interesting series with lots of different genre rolled in with the dystopian angle - romance, drama, action, adventure, intrigue - but as often happens the momentum ran out before the last pages of the book.  If you enjoyed the other books in the series you will (hopefully) enjoy Sever as well, just don't expect too much from the ending (and don't believe the bit about a "breathtaking conclusion" on the blurb).

If you like this book then try:
  • Wither by Lauren DeStefano
  • Fever by Lauren DeStefano
  • The hunger games by Suzanne Collins
  • What's left of me by Kat Zhang
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Eve by Anna Carey
  • Adaptation by Melinda Lo
  • The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
  • XVI by Julia Karr

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Adaptation by Melinda Lo

The trip to Arizona was carefully planned for David and Reese - they were there to win the debate championship and then return home in victory.  In reality, what they got was a lose in the semifinals and one of the worst days in aviation history when planes started falling from the skies all over America, Canada and Mexico.  At first it seems like a bad dream, but as the planes keep falling and the country begins to panic it turns into a deadly nightmare, one that ends with Reese and David in a mysterious hospital complex after their car crashes off the road.

When they finally return home the world is very different, in just one month their world has changed to include evening curfews, dead birds being carted away by the bag full, and men in black everywhere they turn.  These are just the obvious differences, there are even more less obvious differences that have Reese wondering what really happened to her and David.  She has noticed mysterious scars, and she seems to be healing with superhuman quickness, and then there are the weird episodes she has that sometimes end with wicked headaches.  Something is going on, and unless she can figure out what is happening, her life may never be the same again.

Adaptation is a wonderful blend of action, adventure, science fiction, drama, and just a smidge of romance - a novel just crying out to be adapted into a a blockbuster movie or TV series.  There are some interesting twists and turns in the story, and they might have been less expected if the author raves on the back of the book hadn't mentioned conspiracy theories and looking skyward.  The story is fast paced and tightly written, moving you along quickly as Reese and David discover things about themselves and what is happening to them - in places conveniently jumping time so you don't have to wade through boring bits.

This is a read for more mature teens because there is some girl-on-girl action and open discussion about sexuality that may make some younger readers uncomfortable (because there are relationships, not because they are same sex relationships) - there are also some adult-ish themes of violence and control that may make it difficult for younger teens to get into.  This was a great read, and because the relationship angle was not too in your face, this is one for the guys as well as the girls.  To reveal too much about the story and why I enjoyed it has the potential to ruin the plot twists and the little snippets it is so satisfying to discover, however, if you like a really good read, and you like conspiracy theories then this may just be the perfect novel for you to read.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, March 18, 2013

The crown of embers by Rae Carson

The crown of embers is the sequel to The girl of fire and thorns so this review will have ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first book in the series.  If you like to read series in order then stop now and read The girl of fire and thorns first

It seems as though Elisa will finally have some peace and quiet, but it is only an illusion, something that becomes all too apparent when an animagus threatens her in her own city.  The attack sends a shiver through her city, and when she is attacked in her own palace Elisa learns that she is not as safe as she thought, that her position is not as stable, that she is at risk from enemies without and within.  By chance she discovers that forces inside her own palace are moving against her, forces that work in secret and hide from her and those people loyal to her. 

To gain the strength she needs to defeat her enemies, and to save her country, it appears as though her only option is to search for the lost entrance to the zafira, a source of power unlike any she has ever known - a power lost to her people for centuries.  The journey will not be simple, and there are dangers at every turn, and if she is to succeed she will need to make sacrifices.  It seems an impossible journey, and yet she must find the strength and the courage to make it happen.

To complicate matters even further, Elisa finds herself drawn towards Hector, even as the people around her try and manipulate her into choosing a suitor that will benefit their own needs.  Loyal to her new country, Elisa may have to sacrifice everything to save a country that is restless and divided, a country that may never know how much she has lost to give them the future they need.

The crown of embers is the second book in what must be at least a three book series, and it builds on the action and drama of the first book in the series - a skillfully written story that sucks you in and keeps you riding along with the action and drama from start to finish.  Elisa is an all too human monarch, a young woman who is finding herself as a ruler and as a woman, finding out what she wants from her life.  For the first time, you really get a sense of the strength of character Elisa has, the desire she is developing to have her own life, to not die young and used like other Godstone bearers.  This is an intriguing story, and I can't wait for the next book in the series to see what happens with Elisa and the people around her.

If you like this book then try:
  • The girl of fire and thorns by Rae Carson
  • Alanna the first adventure by Tamora Pierce
  • Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix
  • The blue sword by Robin McKinley
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
  • Daughter of smoke and bone by Laini Taylor

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Simply scandalous by Kate Pearce

How cruel of me to review the FINAL book in a series... But, considering the subject matter of the series, it is indeed apt.

At least, I assumed it was the final, as all the main characters are about to live happily ever after by the end. And, a quick 'net surf proved me right...

It has been the characters which drawn me to the series - and to continue reading it, anxiously awaiting the latest installment of The House of Pleasure series.

*WARNING: signs of spoilage ahead*
*WARNING: Lots of sex that may well stretch your comfort zone*

Yes, the sex is hot and very rarely 'vanilla', particularly in the earlier books. However, the over-the-top / multi-partner / various position sex acts is all driven by the characters' backgrounds, experiences, and inclinations (some of which is shaped by their pasts). How do you negotiate a 'normal' relationship when your earliest sexual experiences involve rape and, sometimes, sodomy? Or if you have never had a 'normal' relationship? If your parents were absent / abusive?

And it has been that negotiation that has kept me reading the series, as all the characters, to a greater or lesser degree, bear the scars (some physical) of their pasts.

The final volume tells the dual stories of Philip's legitimate children - Richard and Emily - as they fight to live their lives. Lives and partners of their own choosing.

Richard must fight against his past betrayal by Violet - and against her past as a spy - as her former handler plots to kill her and her brother.
Emily must struggle against prejudice as she tries to make Ambrose believe in her and their shared future.
If all ends as dreamed, Helen and Philip can be happy in the knowledge that all of their children and happy and with the one/s they love.

The other books in the series are:
  1. Simply sexual - the story of Valentin and Sara.
  2. Simply sinful - the story of Abigail and Peter and James and James' mystery man...
  3. Simply shameless - the story of Helene and Philip.
  4. Simply wicked - the story of Anthony and Marguerite.
  5. Simply insatiable - the story of Jane and Blaize. How to turn such a baddie into a romance novel hero? Seriously, Blaize (Minshom) is a complete alphole (alpha-male who is an a**hole... thanks Smart Bitches) in the previous book... how can you make him deserving of a happy ever after?!
  6. Simply forbidden - the story of Lisette and Gabriel.
  7. Simply carnal - the story of Christian and Elizabeth.
  8. Simply voracious - the story of Lucinda and Paul and Constantine.
  9. Simply scandalous - as above...
~ Reviewed by Thalia.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Private Berlin by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan

Chris Schneider is part of the team at Private Berlin, and as of tonight is the latest victim of a killer from his past, a killer who has a few names to check off his list.  At first it appears to Mattie, and Chris's other colleagues at Private Berlin, that he is merely missing, but then they make a grisly find in an abandoned slaughterhouse that leaves no doubt that Chris is gone.   Their discovery is short lived however, because a bomb blows the slaughterhouse and all their evidence sky high, but Mattie is not so easy to dissuade, and even though they are getting a frosty reception from the Police, Private Berlin is determined to get to the bottom of what happened to Chris.
But it is not a simple and straight forward case, and there are strong ties between the mysterious death of Chris and people from his childhood, and the reason that Mattie called off their engagement.  There is something sick and twisted hidden in Chris's past, a secret tied to the man who calls himself the Invisible Man - a killer who has a knack for hiding in plain sight, a man who appears to have infinite patience.  Mattie and the team have to think and act fast, because the game is always changing, and if they are not careful the Invisible Man may decide that Private should join his little game as well.
The Private series is an interesting series, not only because it is set in different offices around the world, but also because of the distinct local flavour the books have - which is no doubt due to the different people that Patterson has penned the series with.  I have to say my favourite so far is Private Oz, and Private Berlin is not exactly my least favourite, but it wasn't up near the top.  One of the things that put me off a little bit was the explaining of things, often of the history of something - it was done in bite sized chunks but it was distracting and at times annoying because I didn't need a history lesson along with my novel.  Once I had read through the first 25% or so of the book the pace picked up and it was as good as any other James Patterson and co, but it took that first 25% for the story to really get going and for the explanations to stop.
This is a good series and hopefully there will be more books set in Private Berlin, only next time hopefully there will be a little less in the way of in your face explanations of why things are happening and the history of where things are happening.  One of the strengths of Private is the blending of the characters between offices, and it would be nice to see some kind of crossover happening between some of the offices within the same novel - maybe starting in one country and jumping across to another.  The writing is good, the tension keeps up, you just have to get past all the explaining (something I am doing a little too much of here at the moment maybe).
If you like this book then try:
  • Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • Level 26: Dark origins by Anthony E. Zuiker and Duane Swierczynski
  • Private London by James Patterson and Mark Pearson
  • Private Oz by James Patterson and Michael White
  • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarrantano
  • Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • NYPD Red by James Patterson and Marshall Karp
  • The basement: a novel by Stephen Leather
  • Step on a crack by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Reviewed by Brilla