Sunday, November 30, 2014

Don't push the button! by Bill Cotter

Larry has one job and one job only - to make sure that you don't push the big red button in his book.  It is the one and only rule, but it seems even Larry may have a little trouble following this one simple rule.  Would you dare to push Larry's button?

There is something about picture books that encourage audience participation - it seems as though they are custom designed to encourage adults to let go and be silly (at least that seems to be the case with the best ones!).  Don't push the red button! is one of the best examples of a picture book designed to encourage audience participation that I have seen for some time - Larry gently encouraging you to break the rules seems like an open invitation to get children involved in the (mischief of the) story rather than encouraging them to enjoy the story from a distance.

It is rare to find a picture book that can survive the countless repetitions that children demand when they find a book they really like - mainly because the characters are either too cutesy or because the plot is so banal - but that is not the case here!  I loved Don't push the button! and it is bound to become a firm family favourite for children and adults of all ages.  

A charming and engaging find for audience participation - either one-on-one or with a bigger group.  Pick up a copy of Don't push the red button! and let the fun begin!

If you like this book then try:
  • If I had a raptor by George O'Connor
  • Barnaby Bennett by Hannah Rainforth; illustrated by Ali Teo
  • Elephants cannot dance! by Mo Willems
  • Blue chicken by Deborah Freedman
  • New socks by Bob Shea
  • Wait! No paint! by Bruce Whately
  • Giggle, giggle, quack by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Betsy Lewin
  • Press here by HervĂ© Tullet
  • Cushie Butterfield (she's a little cow) by Colin McNaughton
  • If you give a mouse a cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff; illustrated by Felicia Bond
  • The monster at the end of this book by Jon Stone
  • Shout! Shout it out! by Denise Fleming

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Surrounded by sharks by Michael Northrop

Davey and his family have traveled to the remote Aszure Island in Florida to spend some much needed time relaxing as a family - a chance to escape the pressure and stress of the struggling family business.  It has been two years since their last family vacation and the deal at Aszure Island was too good a deal to miss - but they didn't take into account the lack of space of a whole family crammed into a single hotel room!  

Waking early on the first morning Davey escapes the room to sit quietly and read one of his favourite books.  To find some peace and quiet Davey finds a secluded beach that seems the perfect place, even the no swimming sign seems to make it the perfect location.  Davey has no intention of swimming, but the water seems to call to him and when he decides to wade into the water he has no idea that he has made a fatal mistake - because a rip tide is about to drag him far out to sea.  In the open ocean Davey is alone and vulnerable, no one knows where he is and the sharks are starting to circle.

It can be a challenge to find a really good read for older children that provides them with an authentic read for their age group without depending on popular culture references or gratuitous violence.  Surrounded by sharks turned out to be a real treat, the perfect balance of action, adventure, and suspense - a well paced thriller that draws you in from the first chapter and keeps you hooked (no pun intended) until the last page.  The characters are well defned and easy to relate to, and the drama on the island nicely balances the moments of thrill and danger for Davey.

The only complaint I have about Surrounded by sharks is that it didn't feel anywhere near long enough, I really wanted it to last longer.  Often books are written for much younger children or for teens, so it was a real pleasure to find a book that suits the 'tweens age group really well - and even better one that seems to be the perfect book for adventure loving boys who may be struggling to find good books to read.  A great read and I look forward to sampling more of Northrop's books to see if they live up to the promise of Surrounded by sharks.

If you like this book then try:
  • Shark bait by Justin D'Ath
  • Crocodile attack by Justin D'Ath
  • Island of the blue dolphins by Scott O'Dell
  • The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • Survival by Chris Ryan
  • The Cay by Theodore Taylor
  • Arrival by Chris Morphew
  • The zoo at the edge of the world by Eric Kahn Gale
  • The world around the corner by Maurice Gee
  • Red rocks by Rachael King

Reviewed by Brilla

Mortal danger by Ann Aguirre

She had been planning it for ages, the perfect moment to end her life with the least amount of fuss and mess, she had it planned to perfection - what she had not planned on was Kian.  Kian came out of the blue, a kind voice that spoke to Edie at a time when she had lost all hope.  He was her rescuer, but it soon feels like she has jumped from the frying pan into the fire because Kian saved her but the act of saving comes with a catch - a catch that she won't know about until it is too late to change her mind.

Edie now has three "wishes", three opportunities to change her life forever - but is revenge the best way for Edie to move forward?  The Teflon crew made her life a miserable hell, they are the reason that she nearly took her own life, but revenge is not all its cracked up to be.  Her first wish is for physical change, a make over that will make her beautiful on the outside, the perfect chance at a first start.  It takes time for Edie to make the internal changes to go with her new face and body, and one of those changes is the way she feels about Kian.

Edie is playing a very dangerous game and she doesn't know all the rules or all the players.  Her value lies in her potential, and that potential can be derailed to make her worthless - which will result in her becoming an indentured slave to the person who owns her token.  With Kian by her side Edie has a chance, but is he really on her side or is he playing a long game with his own plans and goals?  Edie is fighting for her life and fighting for her future, and every day it seems as if the goal posts are moving.

I picked up Mortal danger because I really enjoyed Enclave which was a fast paced and tersely written thriller that raced from start to finish - keeping you on the edge of your seat the whole way.  I was really hoping to have the same with Mortal danger so I was a little disappointed to find a long, involved, and drawn out start to a new series (a bit of pain when I was hoping to have a stand alone - there are no warnings on the book that this is part of a series).  If I had been looking for an involved and richly worded novel with plenty of world and mythology building I wouldn't have been so disappointed (and it wouldn't have taken me a week to finish the book).

There is a lot to like here - Aguirre has obviously put a lot of thought and research into her world but I just came across it at the wrong time.  Readers who really enjoyed Cassandra Clare will probably find a lot to like here, or readers who enjoyed Kiersten White's Paranormalcy series.  

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hogs hate hugs! by Tiziana Bendall-Brunello; illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello

They say you can never have too much of a good thing - but Little Hog would disagree.  Everyone in the forest loves to hug him because he is the cutest and cuddliest little hog in the whole forest and everyone wants their own unique Little Hog cuddle.  His cuddle routine starts with his family but also includes all his friends in the forest and it is more than one little cute and cuddly hog can take!

Determined to make the hugs stop Little Hog posts a sign on a tree which simply reads "Hogs hate hugs" - a sign that causes more than a little consternation among his friends and family.  Does Little Hog really hate hugs or is he just a little sick of them?  You'll have to read the book to find out!

I loved Hogs hate hugs! from start to finish because it is just a fabulous book with laugh out loud and eye rolling moments galore as we experience Little Hogs world of hugs and the chaos that ensues when he lays down the law and says no more hugs.  

This is one of those fantastic books that can be enjoyed as a simple picture book as well as being shared with children to encourage them to express their feelings - because after all if Little Hog had been honest about how he felt about all the hugs then he wouldn't have reached melting point!  

Loads of charm and humour make this a wonderful didactic picture book without brow beating you with the message - fun to share and enjoy with the little person (or persons) in your life.

If you like this book then try:

  • I'm not cute! by Jonathan Allen
  • Hug machine by Scott Campbell
  • The cuddliest hug by Meredith Costain; illustrated by Cee Biscoe
  • Hugless Douglas by David Melling

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mine! by Jerome Keane and Susana De Dios

Fox and Horse are bored with nothing to do, and then an unusual object appears that looks like it could be fun - but neither of them wants to share!  With shared cries of "mine" they both try and take the object for themselves with an unexpected result.

Sharing or learning to share is one of the more popular topics in didactic picture books, presumably because a story about sharing is easier for children to digest than a lecture!  Sometimes books about sharing miss the mark because they are too serious or because the story is too long, Mine! breaks the mould by being funny, silly, and very short.

I loved reading Mine! because the story is short and easy, and because the illustrations are slightly abstract and very bright - not to mention the fact I loved the ending.  This is a vibrant and vivid picture book that will appeal to younger preschoolers because of the bright colours and simple text, and will appeal to older preschoolers because of the slightly abstract looking characters and the little twist in the story.

Loads of fun and a great read aloud for "that" conversation about sharing, as well as a fun and funky story for sharing with the special preschooler in your life.

If you like this book then try:
  • Mine! by Rachel Bright
  • Share! by Anthea Simmons
  • Share said the roster by Pamela Allen
  • Hands off my honey by Jane Chapman
  • All for me and none for all by Helen Lester
  • Should I share my ice cream? by Mo Willems

Reviewed by Brilla

You're all my favourites by Sam McBratney; illustrated by Anita Jeram

Whenever you have more than one child there will come a time (usually more than one!) when your children will start to wonder if you have a favourite.  At times like these it pays to have some comforting words to reassure them all and those comforting words are easy to find in the heart warming (comforting and reassuring) You're all my favourites from the team that brought you the much loved Guess how much I love you.

The bear family is made up of mother bear, father bear and their much loved three little cubs.  Each night they hear how much their parents love them, but they eventually start to wonder if their parents love one of them less or more - because one doesn't have patches, one is a girl and not a boy, and the last bear cub is the smallest.  In gentle loving words both parents reassure their children that they are all their favourites - and they know because of the wise words of the other parent!

This is a sweet, touching, and comforting read for children of all ages and is the perfect book to share as a family or one-on-one.  The illustrations are charming and a perfect match for the gentle and sentimental text.  A must read for any multiple child household - a gentle balm for any sibling rivalry and a warm affirmation that you love all your children.
If you like this book then try:
  • Guess how much I love you by Sam McBratney & illustrated by Anita Jeram
  • All the things I love about you by LeUyen Pham
  • Grandma calls me gigglepie by J.D. Lester & illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
  • Just like my mum by David Melling
  • Just like my dad by David Melling

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dog days of school by Kelly DiPucchio and Brian Biggs

Charlie doesn't like going to school - it is just too much hard work.  Sunday nights were the worst night of the week, when he dreaded going to school in the morning - the start of another week at school.  His dog Norman seems to have it so much better, and one night Charlie finds the brightest star in the sky and wishes that he was the dog.  The nexdt morning Charlie wakes up on the floor and now his dog Norman has to go to school instead!

What starts off as the greatest thing ever soon turns out to be less than ideal - for Charlie and Norman.  Charlie gets to lie back and relax in the bed as Norman gets ready for school, a very nice change of pace.  Norman does well at school learning his letters and making sculptures, and Charlie does well watching the leaves and playing - but then things start to go wrong and Charlie begins to wonder if he made a mistake wishing to be the dog.  Will Charlie be able to reclaim his place in the family, or will he be stuck as a dog forever?

If you like this book then try:
  • Dog in charge by K.L. Going; illustrated by Dan Santat
  • Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
  • Yip!  Snap!  Yap! by Charles Fuge
  • Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack by Lynley Dodd
  • Peggy by Anna Walker
  • Officer Buckle & Gloria by Peggy Rathmann
  • Surfer chick by Kristy Dempsey; illustrated by Henry Cole

Reviewed by Brilla

The end (Almost) by Jim Benton

Donut the bear is the star of his very own picture book and after a simple introduction he does a great big burp and that is the end of the book .... or is it?  The author may have intended the story to end with the burp but Donut has other ideas and he has some rather sneaky moves to try and stay in the story.  despite the best efforts of the author Donut is determined to stay, but maybe that is not such a bad thing after all.

I loved The end (Almost) and shared it immediately with a co-worker who also laughed out loud at the antics of Donut and the author.  Interactive picture books are pure gold as they allow the big person reader to be sucked into the story and provide the opportuntiy for the little person in the equation to get involved with the story too! (even if it means they are only reciting from memory rather than actually reading the story).

In many ways The end (Almost) reminds me of classic Mo Willems because it is fun and almost infectious in the way it sucks you in and encourages you to share - and the fact the characters are so accessible.  Donut is just adorable and has clear charm and appeal to adults as well as children - and I love the way he pushes his luck just like most of us would do in the same situation! 

If you like this book then try:
  • Circle, square, moose by Kelly L. Bingham; illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
  • My friend is sad by Mo Willems
  • Elephants cannot dance! by Mo Willems
  • I broke my trunk! by Mo Willems
  • Don't let the pigeon drive the bus! by Mo Willems
  • Don't let the pigeon stay up late! by Mo Willems
  • New socks by Bob Shea
  • Don't push the button! by Bill Cotter

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I am Rebecca by Fleur Beale

I am Rebecca is the sequel to I am not Esther so there is some reference to the events of I am not Esther in I am Rebecca - however while there are some ***SPOILERS*** you can enjoy I am Rebecca as a stand alone book.

Rebecca and her twin sister Rachel are Children of the Faith and try to live their lives by the Rule.  It is not always to remain true children of God, especially when they are tempted by the Worldly people around them, and even after the family moves from Wanganui to Nelson to live with a wider community of the Children of the Faith there are still challenges.  Rebecca, Rachel and the rest of the Pilgrim family live under the cloud of having not one, not two, but three family members who have left the community - family members who by their rules must now be dead to them.  It is easy for them to be under suspicion, and for their actions to be carefully scrutinised - but they both have their faith and desire a place in the community.

When they are chosen to be the public face of their community at the local market, it is a chance for them to spend time together away from the community - though they are never truly alone as they have a chaperon on every visit.  Their visits to the market allow them a small escape and the opportunity to see the world beyond their community.  As they approach the age of betrothal and marriage Rebecca and Rachel realise their lives will never truly be the same again and while it appears that they are headed for a happy future within their community, Rebecca soon realises that nothing is certain in their small community and that strict obedience to the Rules and the Elders does not keep you safe from being human.

Writing a sequel to a classic book like I am not Esther must have been a daunting prospect for Fleur Beale - for many reasons.  I am not Esther is one of the best books I have read for young people that looks at the social control of an extremely religious group or cult - there are some American novels which look at the FLDS but they fall short of the detail and psychological manipulations of I am not Esther.  I am Rebecca has more in common with the books about the FLDS because it is told from the perspective of a child raised as a Child of the Faith, which makes her discoveries and feelings even more powerful because she should in theory see nothing wrong with what is happening.  

I am Rebecca is a story of contrasts and contradictions.  You have the Children of the Faith and the Wordly - the Children are supposed to be godly and pure, yet it is the Worldly woman at the market who seems to show true Christian kindness.  The Elders are supposed to care and protect the Children in their care, speaking the voice of God - yet it is the Elders that are manipulating their followers and who seem to have their own motivations and needs.  The strongest contrast is seen through Rebecca and Rachel - their lives forced along different paths - a widening gap you feel so strongly because they are identical twins who have spent their entire lives together.

It has been a long wait for a sequel to I am not Esther (which was first published in 1998!) but it has been well worth the wait.  I am not Rebecca can easily be read independently of I am not Esther and while I would not exactly describe it as an "enjoyable" read (the meat of the story is a little too unsettling for that) I was thoroughly absorbed in Rebecca and her world and resented every intrusion into my reading time.  Another classic from New Zealand Fleur Beale that deserves an international audience.  The perfect read for anyone wanting to introduce young people to extreme religious groups and the potential dangers they present.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, November 17, 2014

In the end by Demitria Lunetta

In the end is the sequel to In the after so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in book one.  If you have not already read In the end then I strongly recommend you do before picking up In the end as you really need to read this series in order.

New Hope was meant to be a safe haven for Amy and Baby, but instead it turned into a nightmare that Amy was lucky to escape - and worse still, escape meant leaving Baby behind.  Out in the world beyond New Hope Amy is safe from Dr. Reynolds but she is also on her own and tempting a fate worse than death if her defences against the Florae fail.  It is a risky existence, but Amy is safer in the wilds than in the tender care of New Hope - and Baby is safe.  Then out of the blue Amy receives a message from Kay in New Hope, Baby is no longer safe and her only hope is for Amy to enter Fort Black and find Kay's brother Ken.

Entering Fort Black may be as simple as walking up to the front door, but entering Fort Black and getting into Fort Black are two completely different things.  The people inside are suspicious of strangers - especially strangers who come from the outside world and refuse their "expert" medical attention.  Through a stroke of luck Amy crosses paths with Jacks, who takes her under his wing and helps her even though he doesn't have to.  It is just as well Jacks is around because there is a serious shortage of women in Fort Black, and with the population mostly made up of the criminals imprisoned there when it was a prison, Amy faces some very unwelcome attention.  Her one goal is to find Ken so he can help Baby, but Ken is harder to find than she imagined and the longer it takes to find him, the greater danger she faces.

In the end is the second, and final, book in the In the after series and it has been a thrilling ride from start to finish.  Demitria Lunetta may be a debut author, but she has produced a series that is both exciting and confronting - what would you do to survive in a world populated with Florae?  There is a lot to like here, especially if you enjoy adventure stories where the lead character is a butt kicking teenage girl who doesn't take any (ahem) grief from anyone.  The rest of the cast of characters flesh out the world but also help to make it more realistic and grounded - there may be some cliches but hey they are called cliches for a reason!  Amy is a genuine voice who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and who is fiercely loyal to her little sister and her friends.

There are underlying conspiracies and twisted loyalties that make you feel like the playing field is constantly shifting under your feet, which makes for an unsettling and at times nerve wracking reading experience.  While you could argue that In the after and In the end could have been one novel rather than two, forcing the series into one book would have meant shaving off parts of the story and reducing the tension between books one and two - making it a less enjoyable read!  This is a great series and hopefully we will have many more great reads from Lunetta in the future.

If you like this book then try:
  • Proxy by Alex London
  • Altered by Jennifer Rush
  • The 5th wave by Rick Yancey
  • The rules by Stacvey Kade
  • Enclave by Ann Aguirre
  • Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza
  • Adaptation by Melinda Lo
  • The testing by Joelle Charbonneau
  • Reboot by Amy Tintera
  • Rot and ruin by Jonathan Maberry
  • The hunt by Andrew Fukuda
  • Daughter of smoke and bone by Laini Taylor
  • The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • Anna dressed in blood by Kendare Blake

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I am not a worm! by Scott Tulloch

A case of mistaken identity makes for a delightful and engaging read for children and adults alike in I am not a worm!  

When the chameleon mistakes a caterpillar for a worm it starts out funny, gets funnier, and then leads to a jaw dropping and laugh out loud ending.  I love picture books that draw the reader in and keep them hooked, and really enjoy picture books that allow you to share the story reading with someone else - whether that is a little person, a (mostly) grown up colleague, or to a group with someone sharing the lines.  

There is something amazing about shared energy and enthusiasm that really shines through when you have a book that you really enjoy reading aloud, and books that allow more than one person to read the story can really suck an audience in.  I am not a worm! takes the best aspects of a shared read (two really clear voices), throws in a large dose of silliness and childishness (I am not a worm! - then what are you then?), and ends with the crescendo of an unexpected twist at the end (which I will not spoil for you).  This is childish, juvenile, and totally adorable - make sure you practice your voices before you jump in. 

For years a colleague and I have enjoyed reading the "Elephant and Piggie" books by Mo Willems because they have a great energy and are fabulous when read out loud (and because quite frankly they are some of the best read alouds in the world!) - so it was a stroke of luck to find not only a read out loud that is just as amazing, but it turns out to be a New Zealand author too!

If you like this book then try:
  • If I had a raptor by George O'Connor
  • My friend is sad by Mo Willems
  • Barnaby Bennett by Hannah Rainforth; illustrated by Ali Teo
  • How does the giraffe get to work? by Christopher Llewelyn; illustrated by Scott Tulloch
  • Elephants cannot dance! by Mo Willems
  • Tadpole's promise by Jeanne Willis; illustrated by Tony Ross
  • New socks by Bob Shea

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The serpent's shadow by Mercedes Lackey

Maya Witherspoon has moved to London from her home in India under a double burden, she has the nerve the practice medicine in a male dominated profession, and she has the misfortune of being half-caste - fitting neither in the world of her mothers people nor the world of her father.  Determined to make her way in the world Maya has a carefully calculated plan to ensure she can make her way as a doctor and surgeon, but that plan will bring her into contact with some very unpleasant individuals who belief the place of a woman is in the home, not as a practicing doctor.  

Despite the odds Maya secures her place as both doctor and surgeon, but securing her licence to practice medicine in London is just the start of her trials and tribulations as she faces the professional challenges seemingly around every corner.  Professional challenges aside, Maya also faces a more personal challenge in the form of the aunt that she never knew existed, the aunt that wants Maya dead.  Shivani is determined to claim Maya and the power she holds for her goddess Kali Durga, power that she feels the English stole from her family and her goddess.  

Maya has moved half way across the world to protect her household of servants who are more like family than employees, and the pets that passed to her from her mother.  Trying to staying unnoticed when you are brimming full of magic is a challenge, especially when you are untrained, and her magic some attracts the attention of Peter and his colleagues.  Maya is fighting a war that she is ill equipped to win - she lacks the power in the real world, and she is only just learning the skills of the magical world.  It is a race against time, but Maya will soon discover that she has some unexpected allies on her side.

The serpent's shadow is one of my favourite books in the Elemental masters series and it was a real pleasure to return to Maya and her world at a time when I have picked up and discarded at least half a dozen books in a matter of days.  As with the rest of the Elemental masters series The serpent's shadow takes a fairy tale and brings it forward into a new era and with a new twist (you may never look at Snow White and the seven dwarfs the same).  For me Mercedes Lackey really nailed the re-telling of Snow White, keeping the promise of danger and treachery, along with the concern and care of the seven dwarfs (in this case animals).  

The background information that fleshes out Maya's world is also intriguing, she is in London during the time of suffragettes and their marches - including young women force fed because of hunger strikes.  This wealth of background information forms a completely convincing backdrop for the story, the perfect stage on which the characters can play out their parts.  There was a lot of authenticity in the relationships between the characters too, the recognition of class and what it truly means to be the poorest of the poor or the richest of the rich.  

I just adored re-reading The serpent's shadow, not only for the return to an old friend and her story, but also for the "reset" on my reading so I can try some of the books waiting to be read on my shelf.  Not all of the book in this series are to the same high standard as The serpent's shadow, but there is a lot to like about this series.

If you like this book then try:
  • The Fire rose by Mercedes Lackey
  • Home from the sea by Mercedes Lackey
  • Reserved for the cat by Mercedes Lackey
  • Steadfast by Mercedes Lackey
  • Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey
  • Firebird by Mercedes Lackey
  • Deerskin by Robin McKinley
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • Rose daughter by Robin McKinley
  • Spindle's end by Robin McKinley
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

If I had a raptor by George O'Connor

If you could have a raptor for a pet would you?  One little girl is certain she would choose a raptor if she could and she knows just the right time to take one home - when it is a baby and all teensy and tiny and funny and fluffy.

It wouldn't stay small for long though, it would grow and grow and learn to do all the things that adult raptors know how to do like stalking and sunbathing.  It would not be easy to have a raptor as a pet, and it would take a special kind of owner to keep one as a pet - would you, could you, dare you?

If I had a raptor is a light hearted picture book for children that appeals to a wide audience (including every adult I have shown it to!).  Right from the start it is very clear that O'Connor has spent more than a little time with cats as some of the behaviours are more feline than blatantly reptilian!

This is one of those perfect books to share one-on-one - it works well for crowd but works best when you can pause and draw out the anticipation for a little one sitting on your lap (or for an adult colleague at the desk next to you!).  Loads of fun and would make a brilliant forever book for the dinosaur lover in your life - although it may take them a little while to get used to the idea of a fluffy and feathery dinosaur rather than a scaly one.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bless her dead little heart by Miranda James

Bless her dead little heart is the first book in the Southern ladies mysteries which is a spin off series from the Cat in the stacks mysteries.  While they share some characters in common you can enjoy Bless her dead little heart without having read the Cat in the stacks mysteries and there are no spoilers so if you read Bless her dead little heart and want more you can jump straight into the Cat in the stacks mysteries.

An'gel and Dickce Ducote are the epitome of the true Southern lady - they are gracious, cultured, and ready to lend a hand to those in need.  When a former sorority sister appears unexpectedly on their doorstep they are rather taken aback as they have not seen Rosabelle Sultan for more than a decade.  Despite their reservations about her motives they are too ladylike to turn away an old friend who is obviously distressed and they soon discover why Rosabelle is so distressed - she thinks a member of her own family is trying to murder her!  Quick to help someone in need, the Ducote sisters welcome Rosabelle into their home little knowing that her family is about to descend on their quiet home.

In the matter of a few hours the Ducote house is fit to bursting at the seams with the arrival of the children and grandchildren of Rosabelle, all of them having tracked their errant matriarch to the house of her old friends.  Never one to miss the opportunity to exercise their world class ability to snoop and uncover the sisters welcome the family into their home so they can help get to the bottom of the mystery.  Before the first day is out one of their guests lies dead and the mystery turns from a mere curiosity to a serious case of life and death because it appears that someone genuinely wants to see Rosabelle dead - but what is their motive?  As the mystery deepens the Ducote sisters will need to use all their wiles and cunning to untangle the mess Rosabelle has brought to their door - but looking on the bright side, with all of Rosabelle's family in the house it will certainly be an interesting time.

I was a little hesitant to pick up Bless her dead little heart because I just adore the Charlie and Diesel books (um, sorry, the Cat in the stacks mysteries) and I was a little worried that a spin off series would lack the charm of the original series - thankfully those concerns were quickly washed away by the force of nature that is the Ducote sisters.  An'gel and Dickce are the perfect characters to build this series around because they have the astute observational skills of Charlie, they have the temporary support of the charming Diesel, but they also have the human touch of the sibling love and rivalry that anyone with a close sibling relationship will relate to instantly.  

I have never visited the Southern State of Mississippi (or any of the States for that matter) but the Ducote sisters are the epitome of every charming, powerful, and composed Southern lady I have seen on television series, in movies, or experienced in other books.  While at the heart of things Miranda James writes murder mysteries, he (yes I mean he, Miranda James is a pseudonym) has an infallible grasp of human nature (the good and the bad) that makes his characters fully formed and totally relateable.  The world of Athena, Mississippi is well established for fans of Charlie and Diesel and so it was very easy to slip into the world of An'gel and Dickce - but new fans who are reading Bless her dead little heart without the background from the Cat in the stacks mysterious will also be able to leap into this world with no hiccups or stumbles.

Miranda James has created another fabulous series with plenty to love and nothing to loath.  The Ducote sisters are the perfect verhicle for a spin off from the Cat in the stacks mysteries - they bring a sense of mystery, danger, and sleuthing along with a strong dose of the true Southern lady and the easy relationship between siblings who in turn love each other and experience touches of sibling rivalry.  Hopefully there are many more mysteries for the Ducote sisters to come - as long as we get more Cat in the stacks mysteries too!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Harvest by Tess Gerritsen

Abby DiMatteo is a second year resident at Bayside hospital honing her skills as a surgeon, hoping to one day be able to save patients like her younger brother who died in a terrible accident.  It is a challenging and exhausting time for Abby as she works long shifts and competes for the infrequent praise of the General.  Being a surgeon allows Abby to make a real difference in people's lives and when she discovers that a young boy has missed out on the chance at a transplant heart because the wife of wealthy man Victor Voss has suddenly jumped to the top of the queue Abby doesn't hesitate to help chief resident Vivian Chao redirect the heart to the young boy.  It seems to work out okay though because the next day a donour heart appears and Voss's wife gets the surgery she needs.  It should be case closed but Voss is on a mission to get Abby removed from the hospital and somersetting doesn't add up about the heart.

When Abby tries to follow up on the mysterious donour heart she finds that the situation is even more mysterious than she thought because there appear to be no records of the hearts origin, and the hospital where the surgery was supposed to have occurred has no record of the surgery.  Suddenly Abby is under a microscope and facing a vindictive campaign from Victor Voss - he may be hiding behind law suits from former patients families but Abby knows it is him.  Abby soon finds that nothing is certain as she goes from golden girl with a bright future in the transplant surgery team to social pariah and professional leper as everyone takes a huge step backwards to distance themselves from her meteoric fall.  Determined to clear her name Abby knows she is fighting an uphill battle - she just doesn't know how big that battle will truly be.

Sometimes it is a nice change of pace to leave the latest bestsellers behind and pick up a book you have read before, pick up an older book, or even better pick up an older book that you have read before and really enjoyed.  Harvest is one of the earlier medical thrillers written by Tess Gerritsen and it was a real treat to pick up the book and read it again because it is a book that really gets under your skin because it could so easily be happening somewhere right now - and considering all the urban legends about waking up in a bathtub with one of your kidneys missing there must be some basis to the organ theft! One of the things that appealed most about Harvest is the perfect blend of juicy hospital drama and part gripping thriller - both sides are perfectly balanced to make an intense read that keeps you on the edge of seat in a state of dis/belief about what is happening.

Harvest has a lot in common with the earlier Rizzoli and Isles books but definitely has a strong medical bent - being more medical drama with crime thrown in than a crime novel with medical stuff thrown in.  If you have not yet tried vintage Tess Gerritsen then I suggest you try Harvest - it is bound to appeal.

If you like this book then try:
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • The apprentice by Tess Gerritsen
  • The edge of normal by Carla Norton
  • Now you see her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarrantano
  • Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • The postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • Private Oz by James Patterson and Michael White
  • The survivors club by Lisa Gardner
  • Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
  • Kill switch by Neal Baer & Jonathan Greene

Reviewed by Brilla