Sunday, September 29, 2013

A girl named Digit by Annabel Monahgan

You would think that having an unusual name like Farrah (named for the fabulous Farrah Fawcett of Charlie's Angels fame) would be enough of a challenge for any teenager, but Farrah Higgins also has to hide the fact that she is a maths problem solving machine from her friends the Fab Four.  Before they moved house and Farrah started at a new high school (where her math scores are strictly off the public record) she had the dubious pleasure of earning the nickname Digit because of her crazy mad math skills - a nickname and skill that slowly cost her friends and social status.

Years later she is happy living a secret double life, with her high marks hidden behind the facade of a normal teenager - that is until she discovers the numbers hidden in one of her favourite television shows.  Now Farrah is in the care of the FBI, more specifically the care of an agent who doesn't look old enough to have graduated college, let alone have a badge and a gun.  Secluded for her own safety, Farrah soon finds herself on the run with FBI agent John Bennett in a race against time.  They are under pressure and on the run - and it may just take more than a little Digit to save the day, but does Farrah dare let her out?

I had very low expectations for A girl named Digit, expecting a somewhat vapid or cheesy romp, but what I got instead was a vastly amusing comedy of errors with more than a little danger thrown into the mix.  Farrah is a quirky character (with more than a little OCD) who hides her super maths smarts behind a typical teen girl facade, desperate not to let Digit emerge and ruin her friendship with the somewhat shallow and vapid Fab Four.  All that changes when she makes a startling discovery and finds herself caught up in a conspiracy which brings her into close proximity with the very cute (and very young) FBI agent who you soon realise is more than a little interested in Farrah.  There may be a race against time, but there is also time for a little blossoming romance and life or death chases.  The romance is as quirky and cute as Farrah is, and I couldn't help cheering them on - and then there is the moment of OMG and the other moment of OMG.

A girl named Digit is fun, quirky, and action packed - a light read that had me laughing out loud (and not just because of the names of the chapter headings).  Some of the best parts of the story are when Farrah lets Digit out of the bag and just does her thing - and there are plenty of moments when you want to laugh out loud, and plenty of moments when you go "aha".  Great fun, and hopefully there will be other characters like Digit in Monaghan's future.

If you like this book then try:
  • Bad kitty by Michele Jaffe
  • All-American girl by Meg Cabot
  • Heist society by Ally Carter
  • Model spy by Shannon Greenland

Reviewed by Brilla

The edge of normal by Carla Norton

Six years ago a young girl was found after four years in the hands of a sadistic paedophile who left her mentally and physically scarred - but after years of therapy she has changed her name and is finding her feet in the world again.  Her therapy under Dr. Lerner has enabled her to make huge bounds in her life, but it was also thanks to the intervention of another survivor, and when Dr. Lerner asks her to help a young victim with a story eerily similar to her own, Reeve finds herself drawn into a tangled story of kidnapping, paedophilia, and a race against time to find two other missing girls.

Tilly may be a victim of a dark and twisted crime, but with Reeve's support she is already slipping back into her old life, but she is keeping secrets from her family, the police, and the district attorney.  Kept on the outside by the district attorney, Reeve drifts at the edges of the investigation while trying to help Tilly, but there is only so much she can do.  When she uncovers a big clue she decides to investigate herself, unaware that there is someone keeping track of her movements and following the whole case very closely - someone who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.

The edge of normal is a dark and more than a little bit disturbing, taking a very uncomfortable subject and crafting a thriller around it.  Reeve is a survivor of horrendous sexual abuse and survived years of captivity, and it is through her eyes that we see a lot of the story - it is her flashes of the past that fill in some of the gaps and keep the human connection to a story that is disturbing on quite a few levels.  The author has taken very real material (having written a non-fiction title of a similar topic) and created a cast of characters around that story - and while at times the characters and the dialogue feels a little flat and two dimensional, the story is strong enough to carry its own weight and keep the momentum of the novel moving.

This is not a story for the faint hearted, as while there is no gratuitous descriptions of the sexual and physical violence, there is enough information there to gain a picture of what Reeve, Tilly, and the other girls have gone through.  There are several themes running through this story - hope, survival, starting fresh after trauma and tragedy, and realising what you are capable of.  For a first novel with such a heavy topic at the centre Norton has done an amazing job of being sympathetic to the characters while also creating a story that is absorbing and twisted, especially as you get towards the end of the novel.  It will be interesting to see if Norton writes more novels and if she continues to tackle such dark and unsettling material - or if she branches out into "safer" territory for her future works.  A little more polish to her writing will see her well placed in the thriller market, although a less dark topic may lend itself more easily to more a more polished style.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, September 27, 2013

Burning water by Mercedes Lackey

When dead bodies start appearing in Dallas Detective Mark Valdez finds an excuse to bring in his old friend Diana Tregarde in on the case.  For the higher ups Diana is an expert who can help them with the likely cult angle of the murders, but Mark really brought her in because the murders have his occult senses tingling and wants Diana to bring her Guardian skills in to help solve the case.  It is a gruesome case, with the bodies carved, dismembered and generally desecrated by a killer who is using the bodies to raise a great deal of power at the expense of their victims lives. 

The killer they face is no ordinary killer though, they have a knack for hiding their power signature from Diana, and more than once she finds herself failing to grasp the clues that may help them save lives.  As the death toll mounts and the murders become more bloody, Diana begins to feel the strain of the investigation.  To make matters worse, the enemy discovers Diana is on their trail and begins to work against her - and they are not afraid to kill to get what they want.  As Mark and Diana get closer to the source of the evil threat hanging over Dallas, they are also getting closer to danger and a price that neither of them want to pay.

Burning water is the first book published in the Diana Tregarde series, but when you read the series it is the second book if you look chronologically at the characters story.  It doesn't matter which order you read the books in because the stories are very separate, but I did enjoy the story more this time around having read Children of the night recently so the characters were fresher in my mind and I didn't have to stumble over remembering who the different characters were.  This is a very different kind of series for Mercedes Lackey, and fans of her Valdemar books may struggle with the content which is edgier and darker than her other works - it is more in line with the work of authors like Kim Harrison and Patricia Briggs.

This is an old series now, Burning water was originally published in 1989, but it has dated well - mainly because the characters are the focal point of the story rather than the technology.  That said though, it was somewhat funny reading about floppy discs and slow data over a modem - things that most of us don't even think about anymore.  I hadn't really intended to read Burning water again anytime soon, but after reading Children of the night and having nothing else to read I dived in and read the book in just over a day - next on my reading hit list is Jinx high (but that will wait until after I have read a few more books on my library book shelf).

Burning water is a real departure for Mercedes Lackey, but also shows the diversity and skill she has as an author - creating an absorbing and deeply creepy world where mythology and magic are blended together into a believable and gripping story.  Not for the faint hearted, the terror and horror are expertly rendered without gratuitous detail.

If you like this book then try:
  • Children of the night by Mercedes Lackey
  • Jinx high by Mercedes Lackey
  • Blood price by Tanya Huff
  • Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff
  • Burning water by Mercedes Lackey
  • Spiders bite by Jennifer Estep
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Angel's blood by Nalini Singh
  • Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara
  • Kitty and the midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Moon called by Patricia Briggs
  • Cry wolf by Patricia Briggs

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, September 23, 2013

Keep sweet by Michele Dominguez Greene

Alva Jane has spent her whole live in Pineridge, a walled community where she lives with her family and other people who share her faith.  Pineridge is home to people who have chosen to live a proper life according to the scriptures of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) - it is not an easy life, but Alva Jane is content with the knowledge that she lives a pure life and that she will one day be married and start a family.  Like the rest of the families in Pineridge, Alva Jane's family follows the revelations of their prophet, a man named Uncle Kenton.  

Alva Jane's family is tied tightly to that of the Prophet, her daddy took two of Uncle Kenton's sisters as his wives, and when she is disobedient Alva Jane is married to his brutal and controlling brother Wade.  Alva Jane has never questioned her faith and has always tried to keep sweet, but as her eyes truly open to the world around her she finds herself questioning her faith, her beliefs, and the foundations upon which her community are built.

Keep sweet is an eye-opening novel about life in a FLDS compound, where the word of one man has become law over everything else, and people who disobey are punished and banished from the community.  Alva Jane is an obedient child who was raised in the faith and only begins to question her faith and beliefs when it appears that the Prophet is making decisions and taking actions for his own benefit - a difficult idea for anyone to face when they have faith and believe people who speak on behalf of God should be good men.  Uncle Kenton is undoubtedly corrupt and will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Keep sweet is based on eye witness accounts and stories from people who have left the FLDS - a decision that is difficult for them, and is very difficult for Alva Jane.  Greene has managed to portray the horrifying reality of forced marriage, a violent beating, and rape with a sensitivity that portrays the acts without glorifying in the gory details.  It also feels as though Greene manages to maintain a respect for the mainstream Mormon religion, clearly separating the two aspects of the faith and pointing out the extremes rather than ridiculing either faith.  This is the second story I have read recently about the Latter Day Saints, and this is the only book that clearly identifies the religion - Keep sweet also felt like it tackled the topic better than Sister wife but that could be very much described as a personal opinion.

If you are after more books on religious cults or extreme religious groups try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sister wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka

Celeste has been raised as one of the Faithful at Unity. she is a dutiful daughter and follows the rules of the Prophet and the community.  It is a complex life where she must remain pure of thought and body, waiting for the day when the Prophet will reveal the will of God and the man that Celeste will marry.  It is a community where to reach Heaven each man must have many wives and many children, buying the way to the celestial afterlife for all of them.  Unity is the only life Celeste has known, but she finds herself drawn to a boy living in Unity, a boy she will never be allowed to marry under the rules of their faith.

It is not an easy life, and life beyond Unity with the Gentiles is a scary and confusing place - Celeste knows this because of Taviana.  Taviana was taken into Unity after she was found living on the streets, and she has settled into life with Celeste and her large family, but there are still times when she reminds everyone that she is not a true born and bred member of Unity.  When Celeste is forced to make a choice between herself and her family she will discover who she really is - but is she all she could hope to be?

Sister wife is an interesting read from the point of view that it looks at a religious cult, but it lacks the "pop and power" to become really engaging, reading more like a story from a school journal that is full of cliché and two dimensional characters to get a message across to the reader.  One of the best elements of the novel is that it switches views so you get chapters written from the point of view of one character, and then you get the view from another character. 

I can easily see Sister wife being used as school text because of the theme of religious cults or extreme religious groups, but it lacks the readability to stand on its own merits - I only finished the book in the hopes it would get better, but the ending was a disappointment as it fell rather flat in the end.  If you are looking for a book on extreme religious groups there are better ones out there in terms of readability, but Sister wife does at least cover all the bases if that is what you are looking for.

If you are after more books on religious cults or extreme religious groups try:
  • I am not Esther by Fleur Beale
  • Keep sweet by Michele Dominguez Greene
  • The chosen one by Carol Lynch Williams

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sandry's book by Tamora Pierce

An unlikely group of young people are brought together in a little cottage called Discipline - each of them has a unique knack for getting in trouble, trouble that seems to find them no matter how much they try to behave.  Sandry is a young noblewoman who nearly went made when she was locked in a room to protect her from a plague ravaging her home, only the glow she wishes into her thread keeps her from losing herself to despair.  Tris has been passed from family member to family member, only to end up at Discipline because strange things happen when she is upset.  Daja is one of the Traders, cast out because she was the only survivor when her family ship sank.  Finally there is the boy who chooses the name Briar, a twice caught thief destined for hard labour until he is rescued by the mysterious Niko.

Brought together from very different backgrounds the four are hostile to each other at first, especially when they are forced to live in the close confines of Discipline, but they slowly gain respect for each other and their new teachers.  What they discover at Discipline is not only a new kind of family, one where they are all accepted for who and what they are, they also discover that they are all destined to work with magic - magic of weaving, metal, plants, and the world.  Finding their feet with their magic is difficult enough, but when a series of earthquakes shakes the land it is a warning sign of danger that lies ahead for all of them.

Sandry's book is the first book in a quartet that was published with two distinct titles - one for the US market and one for the UK market.  Sandry's book is also known as the Magic in the weaving and is a perfect introduction to Sandry and her friends, and the world of Emelan.  Some Tamora Pierce fans are not fond of the Circle of Magic series, and the follow up quartet of the Circle Opens - but when pressed they can find it hard to say why.  Sandry's book seems to be written for a younger market than the Song of the Lioness series, and seems more mainstream, but is still a fun escape into a fantasy world where things don't end up how you expect them to.

Tamora Pierce has a knack for writing strong female characters, and Sandry, Daja, and Tris are no exception to this rule.  Emelan is an interesting world, and it was a nice escape from the other books I have been reading lately to return to an old favourite and enjoy catching up with the characters like they are old friends.  A relatively quick read because it is written for a 'tweens audience, I devoured the book in a few lunch breaks and I plan on sneaking the rest of the series in between other books so I can finish re-reading the series, and I may even read the next quartet because Battle magic is due for release this year so it is good timing to re-read all the books from the world of Emelan before diving into the newest book in that world.

If you like this book then try:
  • Tris's book (The power in the storm) by Tamora Pierce
  • Daja's book (The fire in the forging) by Tamora Pierce
  • Briar's book (The healing in the vine) by Tamora Pierce
  • Magic steps by Tamora Pierce
  • Street magic by Tamora Pierce
  • Cold fire by Tamora Pierce
  • Shatterglass by Tamora Pierce
  • Melting stones by Tamora Pierce
  • The will of the empress by Tamora Pierce
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Girl of fire and thorns by Rae Carson
  • Throne of glass by Sarah J. Maas

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Second honeymoon by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

It starts with the murder of a couple on their honeymoon - a murder that seems isolated, the motive possibly linked to a father with money and power and a son and daughter-in-law that may be the perfect vehicle for revenge.  Suspended with no pay from his job at the FBI, John O'Hara is offered the job of finding the killer - the pay check is a temptation, and the bonus if he succeeds is even better.  It should be a relatively straight forward case of finding the bad guy and passing the information along to the client, but Agent O'Hara soon finds that Ethan and Abby are not the only targets and not the only victims - someone out there is targeting newlyweds.

At the same time Special Agent Sarah Brubaker is working on a case that would lift the hair on the back of Agent O'Hara's neck - if only he knew about it.  Someone is working their way through John O'Hara's, killing them with brutal efficiency and leaving little breadcrumbs along the way to help Sarah find him, but the clues may be leading her into a trap more than anything else.  Someone out there really wants to reach a particular John O'Hara, and anyone with the same name is at risk, including the brother-in-law of the President.

When their two cases collide John and Sarah find themselves racing against time to solve not one crime spree but two, and time is running out for both of them.  They are tracking two serial killers with very different means and motives, but both killers are deadly serious about their plans.  Dark times are on the horizon for Sarah and John, they are hunting not one but two blood thirsty killers who will stop at nothing to get what they want - no matter who gets in their way.

Some people are dismissive of James Patterson and his writing because they consider genre fiction to be pulp writing where the "same" novel is written again and again following the same formula with little changing except for the characters names and locations.  James Patterson may be a prolific writer (on his own and with co-authors) but he has a knack for creating believable and relatable characters (usually working against the clock) who have a very short time to solve a mystery or stop a murderer.  I can't remember if I read Honeymoon, but I had no problems picking up Second honeymoon and diving right into the story.

Unlike most of his other novels Second honeymoon blends together two distinct crime arcs and two distinct lead characters, bringing them together over the course of the novel with neither character losing ground or being consumed by the story arc.  I really enjoyed Second honeymoon, enjoying the complexity and rapid pace, which was very similar to the Michael Bennett books than some of his other series.  I devoured this book in a matter of hours and was left feeling very satisfied and looking forward to reading Mistress (the teaser in the back of the novel).  If you like strong characters and absorbing storylines then try Second honeymoon and just about anything else by James Patterson.

If you like this book then try:
  • Step on a crack by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • The basement: A novel  by Stephen Leather
  • Swimsuit by James Patterson
  • Kill switch by Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene
  • Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • Private # 1 suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • The silent girl by Tess Gerritsen
  • The postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • Now you see her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Hide by Lisa Gardner
  • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarratano
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeffry P. Lindsay
  • Kiss the girls by James Patterson
  • Kill me if you can by James Patterson and Marshall Kamp

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Children of the night by Mercedes Lackey

Diana Tregarde looks like she couldn't hurt a fly, built like a dancer (and a petite dancer at that) she manages to hide what she is very well - Diana is a Guardian, a person with the power and responsibility to protect the innocents and help when people need Help.  She is minding her own business when a tangled mess drops into her lap in a series of coincidences in quick succession, starting with a hunter who wanders into the shop she is minding.  Diana is good at picking up the hunters who hunt the innocents and people with Potential, but this hunter is something different, something she has not come across before and while he backs off he seems to have attracted attention to Diana and the store.

When a person she has offered protection to dies just short of her apartment and sanctuary, Diana is drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse with hunters that has drawn together to gain mutual protection while they gain benefit from each others hunting.  Diana is facing a powerful enemy and while she has power, she also suffers from paralysing panic attacks that leave her frozen, rung out, and feeling useless - not the best strategy for dealing with multiple bad guys.  Her only allies are full of fight and ready to rumble, but it may not be enough to take on the bad guys and have them all live to fight another day.  When an unexpected ally appears it looks as though there may be hope, but it may be false hope, especially when the bad guys raise the stakes.

Children of the night is the first book in the Diana Tregarde trilogy and is followed by Burning water and Jinx High.  This series is a very different series for Mercedes Lackey, showing the depth and strength of her writing ability - she is about so much more than Companions and Bards.  I first discovered this series with Burning water, and while you can read the series out of order this first book in the series provides the best introduction to Diana and her world.  There is a certain similarity between the Diana Tregarde series and the Blood series by Tanya Huff, but in this case Diana is the romance novelist rather than the vampire, and Diana and Andre are equals in magic rather than one being magical and one being mundane.  If you like one series chances are you will like the other, but I don't recommend reading one from each series in the same week like I have just done - it lessens the impact of both series (live and learn I guess).

This was one of my favourite series for blending together urban fantasy and the occult with just a touch of horror, and I always sigh when I re-read them because unless there is a dramatic change there will be no more in the series - because there are some people out there who think Guardians are real and the only thing stopping them coming into their rightful power is Mercedes Lackey herself.  There are other series that touch on these same worlds and characters (to a certain extent), but these three novels stand very much on their own.  If you like urban fantasy then give Children of the night a try, it may be an older book now (first published in 1990) but it has aged well.

If you like this book then try:
  • Jinx high by Mercedes Lackey
  • Blood price by Tanya Huff
  • Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff
  • Burning water by Mercedes Lackey
  • Spiders bite by Jennifer Estep
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Angel's blood by Nalini Singh
  • Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara
  • Kitty and the midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Moon called by Patricia Briggs
  • Cry wolf by Patricia Briggs

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I am not Esther by Fleur Beale

It has always been Kirby and her mother together, a comfortable and familiar life where Kirby helps keep her mother on track and her mother works as a nurse.  They don't have a lot of money, and they don't have lots of material belongings, but they have always had each other - until the day Ellen announces they are moving from Auckland to start a new life.  Kirby is frustrated and furious, but when they arrive at their destination Kirby discovers that things are worse than she thought because her mother is leaving New Zealand to work in Africa, and Kirby is going to live with an aunt and uncle she never knew she had.

Joining the large family of her aunt and uncle is bad enough, but she soon discovers they are not just a large family, they are also part of an extreme religious group called the Children of the Faith.  For the Children of the Faith the Rule is the most important thing, and for people to follow the Rule they must be free of the distractions of the modern world and must live simple and pious lives.  It is a complete culture shock for Kirby, and to make matters worse she is forced to give up her own name and must respond to the name Esther instead.  With her world wrenched away from her, Kirby struggles to hold on to her identity as the harsh rules of the Children of the Faith begin to wear away at the edges of who she is - and when she reaches out for help she discovers that her mother was keeping more than one secret from her.

This is the second time recently I have drifted to my own personal library to look for inspiration for books to review after discarding a series of library books in quick succession.  I am not Esther was first published in 1998 and it is a book I would firmly place in the modern classic category, and more than one teenager in New Zealand has read this book a set text for English, and even more have discovered and read I am not Esther for its own merit.  Fleur Beale is one of my favourite New Zealand authors for teenagers, touching on tough topics with surprising ease, sharing with her teenage audience a genuine reading experience that doesn't treat them like idiots and doesn't hold back.  I am not Esther tackles several very serious issues for teenagers - Kirby is abandoned by her mother after spending years keeping her on track, she is left with a religious cult with no hope of escape, and then she finds herself facing a kind of Stockholm syndrome because of her growing relationship with her cousins.

I am not Esther is not an easy read or light and fluffy, however it is one of those books that stays with you for a long time because of the "realness" you feel with what Kirby goes through.  When she is angry you feel the anger with her and understand her motivation, when she is conflicted you can feel why she feels that way, and when she waivers in her conviction you feel the confusion and confliction that leaves her feeling so lost.  You may need to borrow a library copy to read this book, but it is highly recommended.  A true real life read that could almost be ripped from the headlines.

If you like this book then try:
  • Dirt bomb by Fleur Beale
  • The kidnapping of Christina Lattimore by Joan Lowery Nixon
  • The half life of Ryan Davis by Melinda Syzmanik
  • Land of milk and honey by William Taylor
  • Genesis by Bernard Beckett
  • When we wake by Karen Healey
  • Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher
  • See ya, Simon by David Hill
  • I swear by Lane Davis

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, September 9, 2013

Blood price by Tanya Huff

It has been eight months since Vicki "Victory" Nelson left the police force, giving up her career as a homicide detective because her world view is slowly shrinking away due to an eye condition with no cure and no real treatment.  Her night vision is pretty much non existent, she has tunnel vision (literally), and her reduced vision means she has to wear glasses - all these limitations mean nothing when she witnesses an attack on a subway platform and rushes to the aid of the victim.  All her skills as a homicide detective may not have abandoned her, but as a private investigator she no longer has the badge to investigate the crime.  When witnessing the crime brings her a little too close to her past Vicki finds herself being drawn into her past once again.

When a client asks Vicki to investigate the death of her boyfriend, it seems like Vicki may have a way back into the case - even if the client does believe that the murderer is a vampire.  As the bodies start to pile up the whole city starts to believe in vampires and as tensions rise there is the chance the city will boil over with vampire fever.  The last thing Vicki expects to find in her search for the killer is a real vampire, but that is just what she does find - and he is nothing like she expected.

Blood price is the first book in the Blood series and acts as a perfect introduction to Vicki, Henry, and Mike - characters that grow on you throughout this first book and more throughout the series.  I have owned more than one copy of this book (the covers were changed with a re-release a few years ago and I had to get the set rather than just getting the books I was missing).  I really enjoy Huff's work, and own several series - the Blood series and the Summoning series.  There is an element of horror (but it is not over the top gory), there is an element of suspense (but it is not long and drawn out), there is an element of fantasy (but it doesn't take you too far out of this world), and there is just a smidge of romance thrown into the mix (just not always where you would expect).  The world is richly imagined, and even though it was written in the 90's it has dated well - apart from the odd slang term but that could also just be Canadian slang.

This series has a lot in common with the Diana Tregarde mysteries from Mercedes Lackey, and I can remember having a conversation with someone years ago who insisted they were in fact the same person!  I love this series and tend to re-read the books every few years, hence why I purchased my own copies (you can't always trust the library to keep copies of classic fantasy series).  If you are after something a little dark, but a little light, with a good plot, relatable characters, and some little plot twists to keep you guessing then give this series a try - there are five to enjoy and if you really like them then you can also read the Smoke series which follows one of the other characters.

If you like this book then try:
  • Blood trail by Tanya Huff
  • Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff
  • Children of the night by Mercedes Lackey
  • Burning water by Mercedes Lackey
  • Spiders bite by Jennifer Estep
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Angel's blood by Nalini Singh
  • Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara
  • Kitty and the midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Moon called by Patricia Briggs
  • Cry wolf by Patricia Briggs

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Nowhere by Jon Robinson

Imprisoned for a crime they don't remember committing, separated from their friends and family, and encouraged to confess their crimes - it's not a nightmare, it is the reality for a group of one hundred teenagers in a mysterious facility in the middle of nowhere.  The teenagers are controlled with the liberal use of ibises, an advanced weapon that can incapacitate, knock you unconscious, and causes incredible pain.  Some of the teens have given up, accepted their crimes and their sentence, the other teens call them turned, and some of them are not planning to stick around and see it happen to them.  Jes, Alyn, Ryan, and Elsa want nothing more than to escape, but they are badly outnumbered and the guards hold the balance of power - or do they?

Nowhere is the first book in a series which blends together elements of a thriller, a conspiracy theory, something a little hinky, and a smidgen of something else that is hinted at but I don't want to spoil the surprise (or maybe get it wrong as the inkling is just an inkling).  Nowhere was an interesting read, a little unpolished and a little bit wonky in places, but it was told with dynamic switches between point of views for different characters, and the conspiracy at the centre of the book (and series) really kept me intrigued from beginning to end.

Lots of stories get compared to each other and one of the big comparisons at the moment is "this book is like the Hunger games" - I can't honestly say that here, but what I can say is that Robinson has made a bold statement with his debut novel, an absorbing read that has you hooked from chapter one right to the last page where there is a taunting/teasing cover shot of the next book in the series Anywhere

I can be quite a harsh critic sometimes because I see so many books each year, and because I like my stories to be absorbing and hard to put down - this sometimes means that my reviews come across as negative of a book.  While Nowhere was not as polished as I would have preferred (a little awkward phrasing, a few fumbles where I had to go back and double check something, the odd time when it was hard to keep the characters straight) it was an excellent read and I was reluctant to put it down anytime I was interrupted.  Robinson has great promise and if he can keep up the quality of his plot and character development and get a little help from his editor to polish things a little more, then he has the potential to become a leading force in writing quality adventure thrillers for teenagers.

If you like this book then try:
  • Proxy by Alex London
  • The recruit by Robert Muchamore
  • Variant by Robison Wells
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Numbers by Rachel Ward
  • Agent 21 by Chris Ryan
  • The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
  • Wolf brother by Michelle Paver
  • In the after by Demitria Lunetta
  • Framed by Malcolm Rose
  • The industry by Rose Foster
  • Jimmy Coates by Joe Craig
  • Reboot by Amy Tintera
  • Slated by Teri Terry
  • Finding the fox by Ali Sparkes
  • The hunt by Andrew Fukuda

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, September 6, 2013

Davy and the duckling by Margaret Wild and Julie Vivas

The pairing of Margaret Wild and Julie Vivas is one to celebrate and cherish, and this latest addition to their canon does not disappoint. 

This is a heartfelt story of friendship between a boy and his duck - a friendship that lasts a lifetime. 

Vivas' exuberant illustrations perfectly reflect the warmth and emotions of the text. 

A joy to read and to share.

If you like this picture book, try: 

  • My snake, Blake by Randy Siegel. 
  • Ben & Duck by Sara Acton. 
  • The way I love you by David Bedford. 
  • All the Mog books by Judith Kerr. 
  • Sleepy Pendoodle by Malachy Doyle. 
Reviewed by Thalia. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Nickel plated by Aric Davis

If you need something done, and you need it done quiet, one of the best people to ask is Nickel - if he can't get it done then it isn't worth doing.  For years he has been building up his reputation, working quietly to stay under the radar so the cops don't catch on to what he is doing, and he defintely tries not to get noticed.  He has a nice little reputation, he can catch the cheating husbamds, he can track down your stolen goods - he can also sell some high quality pot to raise funds and do all kinds of dodgy thigns to make a living.  What Nickel really excels at though is catching the people who hurt children, the people who trade in the misery of children - not bad for someone who is just a kid himself.

When Arrow comes looking for help, Nickel accepts the job almost straight away - who wouldn't with a little sister missing and a client who makes his heart do all kinds of funny things.  Too bad the case is serious and nasty, leaving very little time for Nickel to hang out with Arrow and planty of time for things to go wrong.  Living a busy life is a challenge, especially when he is balancing several cases and some interesting personal missions on the side, but Nickel quickly realises that this case is going to get very personal very quickly and he may just be in over his head.

Nickel plated was a surprising deep and intense book, despite the relatively small size of the novel.  I was hooked on the story from the start, and while the writing was not very polished (it was a debut novel after all) it was a book that read as very real - Nickel was both easy and hard to connect to, his backstory one that would make most adults squirm more than a little.  Arrow was an interesting character and provided some rather amusing "boy" moments, and the other chracters in the "cast" helped to round out Nickel's world and make it more believable.  

This is a book that I would peg as more one for the guys than for mixed company reading, just because the voice of the book is so amazing - I seriously hope that Davis either writes more in this series (please please please) or writes more books fullstop because he has an amazing "raw" voice that comes across as very genuine for his young male character.  The subject matter wont appeal to everyone as it does include some pretty serious child abuse, but older teens should be able to cope with the subject matter - they may even know someone who has been through something similar.

If you like this book then try:
  • Agent 21 by Chris Ryan
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • Trafficked by Kim Purcell
  • Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott
  • Street dreams by Tama Wise
  • Such a pretty girl by Laura Wiess

Reviewed by Brilla