Thursday, April 30, 2015

The book of beasts by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman

The book of beasts is the final book in the Hollow Earth trilogy and is the sequel to Hollow Earth and Bone quill so this review has some ***SPOILERS***.  If you prefer to read books in a series without ***SPOILERS*** then stop reading now and check out Hollow Earth and Bone quill first.

Em and Matt have never been separated before for any real length of time - but now centuries lie between them.  Worse still, they don't know if the other is still alive because the distance between them has severed the connection they share.  In the Middle Ages Matt and Jeannie are stranded on Auchinmurn Isle, and they are not alone - they share this time with friend and foe.  Solon and Carik are no strangers to Animare and Guardians in their own time, but Matt and his wild and impulsive ways push their boundaries and their trust.  Matt's father Malcolm is the greatest foe, determined to release the beats of Hollow Earth - and he has powers he shouldn't have.

In the present Em is dealing with her own problems, and overprotective mother and grandfather and an enemy that will stop at nothing to get what she wants.  Em wants to get back to the Middle Ages to rescue Matt and Jeannie, but she has to work in secret because no one wants to loose her as well, but secrets can be dangerous.  While Em works in secret she has no idea that her plans will put her squarely in the path of her grandmother - a grandmother she never knew existed, but has always that Em and Matt are part of her own plans for the future.  The twins are on a collision course with destiny, and if they fail the whole world will fall.

The Hollow Earth trilogy has been an interesting and engaging read, although this final book in the trilogy has left me feeling a little disappointed.  To be fair, part of that sense of disappointment no doubt comes from the fact that it has been two years since I read the last book in the series and my mind was scrabbling to reconnect witch characters and events.  The structure of the novel also took some getting used to, because it switches back and forth between time periods in a way that feels a little "clunky", like at times the Barrowman's were trying to make the gaps fit the chapters rather than putting gaps where they were a "best fit".  

The imagination and world building that has gone into the Hollow Earth trilogy is truly impressive - especially because it was so original yet felt so real and compelling because of the connection to a place and time that feels authentic.  You get a sense reading the stories that it is very "real", it is very easy to suspend belief and get caught up in the story and the characters.  In some ways it feels like the series was a little shaky on the dismount, at times I was distracted and found it hard to focus on the story because it felt like time was moving wrong and that things weren't as clear as they could have been - but that could have been part of the challenges of having a connected story happening in two different periods of time.

The Barrowman siblings are talented and have a flair for creating believable worlds and characters, and I sincerely hope that there are more books to come.  Writing books for older children can be challenging, because although the readers are ready for more challenging writing they are often not emotionally ready for the challenges of reading teen books - John and Carole E. Barrowman have created a challenging and engaging series that will provide many enjoyable hours of reading for children aged 9 years and up.  I would recommend reading this series as a marathon read if you can get your hands on the whole series because you will enjoy it more if you don't have to wait for the next book in the series (this is the voice of experience speaking!).  

If you like this book then try:
  • Hollow Earth by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman
  • Stone heart by Charlie Fletcher
  • Finding the fox by Ali Sparkes
  • Under the mountain by Maurice Gee
  • The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
  • Lionboy by Zizou Corder
  • Northwood by Brian Falkner
  • The Halfmen of O by Maurice Gee
  • Museum of thieves by Lian Tanner
  • Lee Raven, boy thief by Zizou Corder
  • The roar by Emma Clayton

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The conspiracy of us by Maggie Hall

Avery West is used to a life on the road, never putting down roots or really getting to know people.  The defences she has built make her nomadic life more bearable, but it is a lonely life in many respects - she doesn't leave lifelong friendships in her wake anymore, but she also doesn't really connect to other people either.  Some teens might think it is an exotic and exciting life to follow her mothers work around the States, but for Avery it is more about surviving than enjoying.  At school Avery has some friends, but she still holds herself apart - until she discovers that new boy Jack Bishop has a photograph of her.  At first she doesn't really think anything of it, until she realises that the photograph is not a school photo and that he really shouldn't have it.

When Avery ignores her mothers wishes and goes to the prom, the bottom falls out of her world and she is whisked into a secretive world that would blow the mind of anyone who happened to stumble across it - let alone the mind of someone who has just found out they are part of that world.  Avery is about to discover that the word as we know it is just a facade, that there is a secret society that really controls the world and they don't play the game lightly.  The Circle of Twelve is waiting for a prophecy to be fulfilled, a prophecy about a girl with violet eyes and the One - who will help the families access the power they need to become invincible.  It seems like a dream turned into a nightmare for Avery - who just happens to have violet eyes and a surprising connection to the Circle of Twelve.  Dragged into an ancient war she doesn't understand, Avery is in a race against time to protect herself and the people she loves - a race where she doesn't know all the rules, all the players, or the true cost of the game.

The conspiracy of us was a truly guilty pleasure, a read that shouldn't have worked but really did.  For nearly the entire book one part of my brain was saying "this is rubbish, there is no way this story is believable, I mean did you read what just happened" - while another part of my brain was going "shhh, I'm enjoying this!"  The conspiracy of us is far fetched in the same way that the Alex Rider series is far fetched, you know that it can't be real but the world is so well rendered that after a while you really don't care because you want to see what happens next.  Just like Alex Rider, Avery West is thrust into a world that she is not prepared for and where she is dangerously out of her depths.  In a fast paced read that has a lot in common with a Jason Bourne movie, The conspiracy of us drags the reader on a ride from the United States to Paris, to Istanbul and beyond.  

The world Avery finds herself in is dripping with luxury, famous people, and brand name dropping as the world of opulence and excess is exposed to the reader.  The characters built around Avery are three dimensional with their own secrets, desires, and back stories and it is all too easy to get sucked into the relations and dramas because you feel a real connection to the characters.  One of the few things that really annoys me after reading The conspiracy of us is that this is either the start of a new series (which was not advertised!), or that Maggie Hall has written an ending for a stand alone novel that is designed to drive her readers really nuts!  I sincerely hope there is another book in the series because there are lots of unanswered questions and loose ends here.

A fun and engaging read, but this is one of those books that is not going to appeal to every reader - you are either going to love it or hate it.  Avery is interesting and engaging, and her world is full of secrets an conspiracies, but the name dropping and focus on action will put some readers off.  Here's hoping we don't have to wait too long for a sequel.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The bodies we wear by Jeyn Roberts

Six years ago Faye and her best friend Christian were given a fatal dose of the drug Heam - Faye was brought back to life, but Christian was gone for good.  For years Gazer has supported and protected Faye, providing her with a roof over her head and the chance for a future.  Her life is governed by a series of strict rules imposed on her by the only school that would accept her, a harsh glimpse into a future where Heam addicts marked with scars like Faye's have no future and no rights.  

The only spark that has kept Faye going, helped her fight the addiction is the chance at revenge.  For years Gazer has helped her hone her body and mind, training her to defend herself.  In Faye's mind he been training her to seek revenge, giving her the skills and the strength to find the men who hurt her and Christian and kill them.  Gazer hopes she will give up on her plans for revenge and focus on her plans for the future instead, and for the first time they are arguing and Faye is keeping secrets.  

When a stranger enters her life Faye is suspicious, especially when Chael seems to know things about her and when he seems naggingly familiar.  It is a puzzle that she doesn't really have time to solve, not when she is so close to achieving her goal, but it is also a suddenly dangerous time.  For the first time people are starting to notice Faye, and being noticed is not a good thing when you depend on the shadows to hunt and to stalk.  All of her training and planning is finally coming to fruition, but sometimes the world works in mysterious ways and what Faye is about to discover will change her life forever.

I picked up The bodies we wear because of a book review I saw on the Unshelved digest I get once a week and I am really glad I read it - it is original, gripping, and had me hooked from the start.  Faye is a complex and intriguing character, completely well rounded with her faults, her flaws, her passions, and her anguish.  The world built around Faye is full of despair and decay, yet the relationship she has with Gazer is an anchor and source of hope.  
Not wanting to ruin any of the major plot points for people planning to read The bodies we wear, there is a lot here to like.  While the main protagonist is a girl, which can turn male teens readers off, there is a lot of action and thriller elements that will provide that hook - there is also a touch of romance for those that enjoy a little romance in their stories.  The world building is well thought out and the dreary and constantly raining world seems the perfect fit for a time and place where the "perfect" drug has become such a major problem that it affects people forever once they are identified as addicts.  This is a bleak world that seems without hope and I couldn't help rooting for Faye to get her revenge, but the ending was very satisfying (if a teeny bit rushed).  A very satisfying read and a great addition to the edgy futuristic, science fiction genre.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Reborn by Jennifer Rush

Reborn is the third book in the to Altered saga so there are ***SPOILERS*** in this review if you have not read the rest of the series.  I highly recommend that you read Altered and Erased before you read any more of this review and before you read Reborn as it is one of those series where it is really important to read them in order.

Anna, Sam, Cas and Nick may have caused a lot of trouble for Branch, but they are still not free of its influence or long reach.  Nick has been having flashbacks about his past, but they are not very clear, all he knows for certain is that they are about a girl who calls him Gabriel.  With help from Anna and his files, he starts to piece together some of the clues about his past and this mysterious girl and he can't help but wonder if she was a target or someone he saved - and he is more than a little concerned about what the truth might be.  When he pieces together enough pieces of the puzzle to figure out the place where the events happened he sets of on his own, despite Sam's obvious disapproval.

In small town Trademarr, Illinois Elizabeth is used to being THAT girl - the one who was kidnapped and held for six months.  The girl who escaped her kidnappers, but who left without her mother and now lives with a foster parent.  There is so much she doesn't know about what happened six years earlier, what she does know is that Gabriel came and saved her that night.  She has been in therapy for years, and with the support of her foster mother Aggie and her bestfriend Chloe she gets by most of the time and could even be mistaken for a normal teenage girl.  That all changes when Nick arrives in town, because Nick is not the only person looking for Elizabeth - and they have a darker agenda in mind that filling the blanks in their memory. 

The Altered saga has been a very interesting read, bringing together elements of classic science fiction conspiracies (in the tradition of the X-files) and mixing it with the feel of a dystopian novel (where there are secrets, betrayal, and danger around every corner).  It has been a while since I read the first two novels, but I managed to slip back into the story without too many problems - although it did feel like there was an older teen feel for this book in the series, the language seemed like it was targeted at a slightly older audience (but that may have just been because the book was from Nick's perspective).  

The rapid switching between Nick's point of view and Elizabeth's keeps the action moving forward, and also seems to ratchet up the tension because you can see frustration and confusion on both sides.  There are some lovely little plot twists to enjoy as well, and some puzzles that quietly work away in the background that you either figure out or get a surprise from (I was a little of both).  The Altered saga is a fantastic read that deserves to be discovered, and the best part is that for readers who are just discovering the series now they can jump from book to book to book - unlike early discoverers of the series who had to wait for each book to be published (it was well worth the wait though).  

Hopefully there are many more books in a similar vein from Jennifer Rush as she has a knack for blending together action, conspiracies, and human emotions and connections into the perfect storm of addictive reading material.  There are some hints that there could be more in store for Nick and team in the future, and while this trilogy has a satisfying conclusion I really hope there is more to come in the future.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, April 3, 2015

NYPD Red 3 by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

NYPD Red 3 is the third book in the NYPD Red series and while it can be read as a stand alone book, it is best enjoyed as part of the rest of the series.  If you choose to keep reading this review there are ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in the earlier books.

Detectives Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald should be enjoying the start of a new year, but instead they are facing down the barrel of a perplexing case.  The trusted driver of one of New York's elite has been found murdered in a pretty gruesome fashion, beheaded and left like garbage by his car.  The possible witness is the son of said member of New York's elite, and he is suddenly no where to be found.  His father doesn't seem in the slightest bit interested in co-operating with the NYPD, and he seems to be actively throwing roadblocks in their way to stop them unraveling the case.

It soon becomes clear that the reason they can't talk to junior is that he has been kidnapped, but no one seems willing to actually say the words and bring Jordan and MacDonald into the case.  In a world full of privilege it is not uncommon for people to call on favours and use their money to buy what they want, but NYPD Red has never had to deal with a case where the victim is so hellbent on not receiving help.  Determined to solve the case Jordan and MacDonald push boundaries and continue to dig for the truth.  The pressure is on professionally, but also personally as they deal with drug addict husbands bouncing from rehab to rehab and the sudden appearance of ex-husbands.  The deeper they dig the more they uncover about the root of the conspiracy, and the mind blowing secret at the heart of the conspiracy will rock their worlds and challenge their professionalism to the core.

NYPD Red is an interesting series that has gone from strength to strength, presenting a glimpse of the 1% and their lives.  While this is a work of fiction (obviously) there is a ringing element of truth with the events and the way the characters live their lives.  There is a saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and it seems very appropriate for the slimy character of Hunter Alden who seems determined to get what he wants no matter what the cost.  Apart from the callous way he treats his family, there is also the underlying plot of what exactly did he do all those years ago as part of Project Gutenberg.  

At times the name dropping gets a little tiresome (its all about the brand names darling) - but it does help to lay the backdrop for this drama around a family of true New York blue bloods.  Unlike some of the other James Patterson co-authored works, the NYPD Red series seems to be a lot more about the action and thriller elements, there is character development but the action is what drives the story forward.  It may seem like a contradiction, but it is also the characters of Jordan and MacDonald that keep the story moving, their view of the world and their passions keep them moving into action even though it could mean the end of their careers.  There is a good writing chemistry between Patterson and Karp in this particular genre (thriller/action) and it fits them well, much as Patterson and Ledwidge has amazing writing chemistry in the more traditional detective/thriller genre.  

Hopefully there will be many more novels in the NYPD Red series as it is a nice change of pace for Patteron and Co.  Sometimes the detective/crime genre can become formulaic because of the nature of the writing (good guy, bad guy, crime, conspiracy, solved the crime, done and dusted), but NYPD Red seems to break out of that mould a little and make its own path and direction.  A great read devoured in a single afternoon.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla