Thursday, July 28, 2016

(Don't you) forget about me by Kate Karyus Quinn

Gardnerville is a a magical place - the towns people never get cancer or other serious illnesses, they live long lives, and people born in Gardnerville can develop the most amazing abilities.  There is a price to pay for this paradise though, and every four years something goes seriously wrong, a teenager goes off the rails and other teenagers end up dead.  The culprit is always punished, sent to the reformatory on the top of the hill to pay their dues, returning to the town a husk of their former selves.  It is the way that Gardnerville works, when one of the teenagers does something wrong they pay for their crimes and in turn keep the wheels of the town turning.

Four years ago Skylar's sister Piper lead her classmates on to the trestle bridge and told them to jump, and not everyone made it out of the water that night.  Piper was taken away to the reformatory and Skylar fell into the purple embrace of the forget-me-nots - but now it seems they are not enough.  Skylar is desperate to find Piper and is willing to do whatever it takes to find her, no easy feat with gaping holes in her memory.  Determined to find the truth Skylar throws herself into the search with no concern for the cost - or the consequences.  Garnerville is full of secrets, the perfect hunting ground for a person like Skylar - who can steal the secrets from your head and your heart.

(Don't you) forget about me is the third book I have read from Kate Karyus Quinn and I was once again very impressed by her originality and refusal to conform to genre norms.  While I didn't find (Don't you) forget about me to be quite as polished and well written as her Down with the shine, which makes sense as it is an older book, the same strong characters and well defined mythology made this an addictive read that I couldn't put aside or skim read because each morsel was carefully doled out throughout the story and kept me reading right to the end.  I thought I had figured out the story quite early on, and while I was partly right I was also sideswiped by some very sneaky little secrets revealed at the end of the novel.  

Skylar is a classic Quinn character, she is strong and weak at the same time, determined and broken, and she is a character that you can relate to.  The small town setting of Gardnerville is a perfect vehicle for this story, a small town has a certain feel and certain rules that make this story come to life.  In a small town everyone knows everyone else, and everyone knows everyone elses business, and when a small town is isolated in the way Gardnerville is it is so easy for things to go wrong (like they do in Gardnerville).  The mythology of Gardnerville is mind blowing and realistic - people really would risk it all for the chance to live a long and healthy life.  The other characters that make up the cast are also well defined and equally perfect/flawed.  

If you don't like the first few chapters give it a chance because once the story has you hooked you really will be hooked.  Some people might find the alternating past and present chapters annoying, but as the novel develops the time switches help drive the story forward as each little clue is slowly released and you build a picture of what is really happening in Gardnerville.  Hopefully there are many more genre defying books from Quinn as this was another great read from a uniquer voice in current young adult/teen fiction.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mirrored by Alex Flinn

Violet was a strange child - on the inside and the outside - so she was an outsider to the other children at Coral Ridge Elementary which left her lonely and isolated.  The other children ignored her - except for Jennifer and Greg.  Jennifer and her friend Gennifer seemed to delight in teasing and excluding her, while Greg became a friend.  When the opportunity comes for Violet to make a change in her life she seizes it - after all who wouldn't want to smooth away the imperfections and make themselves practically perfect?  As the years go by Violet transforms herself into someone new and beautiful, supported by her new friend Kendra.  As the flaws fall away Violet expects things to change, but will they really?

Celine bears a different curse - she is a natural beauty with a kind soul and loving heart.  No one takes her seriously though, or if they do they wait for her to be a Queen Bee or a snob.  When her mother dies in a tragic accident it is just Celine and her father, until an old friend reappears and joins their lives.  As time passes Celine grows more beautful and more isolated, until she is forced into the spotlight.  As her home life becomes more miserable Celine trhows herself into her friendships and new passions - but will it be enough?  Celine is in danger, and she doesn't even know it.

Alex Flinn has written some amazing fractured fairytales over the years, taking stories we know really well and twisting them into something new and exciting - updating them and bringing them into a modern time and a modern world.  The common thread through these stories is Kendra, a "young" woman who has seen the ages pass and is not afraid to meddle in the lives of people who need it!  Mirrored was a relativley long story for Flinn, but it was also more complex than her other stories and was essentially three stories rolled into one rather enjoyable package.

Fractured fairytales can work really well when they are well handled, but they can also be very bad when the author handles it badly.  Flinn has a deft touch with her fractured fairytales, drawing on the source material to give you a familiar feeling when you read, but also bringing in enough new material to keep things interesting.  Mirrored is a great addition to the story of Kendra and the people she helps/punishes.

If you like this book then try:
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn
  • Cloaked by Alex Flinn
  • Princess of the midnight ball by Jessica Day George
  • Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell
  • Snow by Tracy Lynn
  • Beauty sleep by Cameron Dokey
  • The crimson thread by Suzanne Weyn
  • Ella enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Black & Blue by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Detective Harriet Blue is the only female cop in the sex crimes team and she is determined to prove herself - and she is not afraid to go outside the law to teach some criminals a lesson.  When the body of a young woman is found washed up in the same area as an active serial killer she jumps at the chance to work on the case, hoping it will lead to her joining the serial killer case - even if that means working with the most detested detective in Sydney.  As Detective Blue works her way through the case with the extremely unorthodox and loathed Detective Barnes at her side, she realises that they have stumbled across something bigger and badder than they thought.  They have to solve the case before more people die - and before Blue is forever tainted by working with Tox Barnes.

Black and Blue is part of the Bookshots series and the first introduction to Detective Harriet Barnes who features in the upcoming novel Never Never.  As someone who lives "Down under" it is nice to read a book set so much closer to home, although admittedly Australia is still across the Ditch (not sure if we can convince James Patterson to write a book based in New Zealand so this might be as close as we can get!).  Being set in Australia adds a different flavour to the story which makes a nice change from having to puzzle out some of the little subtleties that Americans and the British pick up when reading books set in their own backyards.

Detective Harriet Blue is an interesting character, full of all the flaws that make people people - and it was somewhat amazing that Patterson and Fox managed to squeeze in so much about her in such a short novel.  The dynamic between Blue and Barnes was interesting, as was the petty and nasty things that the other cops did to both of them - it made for some surprising reading that cops would do that to each other.  It took me a little longer to settle into Black and Blue but it was a great read and finished all too quickly, so hopefully we don't have to wait too long for Never Never to come out!  Another great addition to Bookshots.

If you like this book then try:

  • Private Royals by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • Zoo 2 by James Patterson and Max DiLallo
  • The hostage by James Patterson and Robert Gold
  • Heist by James Patterson and Rees Jones

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, July 22, 2016

Heist by James Patterson and Rees Jones

Baz, Alex, and Charlotte had a plan to get the diamonds and get the money they need, but on the day their plan goes sideways when another gang tries to steal their diamonds.  A brief bloody fight later and they are on the run with the bad guys hot on their trail.  They stole the wrong the diamonds from the wrong person and he wants them back, and he is not afraid to fight dirty.  Weeks away from retirement Detective Inspector Andrew Hill decides to liven up his last days by taking on the case, and begins an international chase for the fugitives - but he is not the only one hunting for them.

Heist is part of the Bookshots series and because it is such a compact story it is really challenging to review it without any spoilers!  James Patterson has a knack for writing action packed stories that are driven by action and characters, and when he finds the wright co-author it is like magic.  Of all the partnerships he has had I have always liked his collaborations with Michael Ledwidge best as they have a really seamless style and great writing chemistry - and I feel the same way about the writing chemistry between Patterson and Rees Jones.  They are yet to write a full length novel together, but the Bookshots with Patterson and Jones working together are my favourite so far!

Bookshots have a wide variety of books in the series - some tie in with other full novel series, while others are stand alone novellas.  Heist is a stand alone novella which means you can dive in with no background and enjoy with no strings attached!  Here's hoping there are many more Patterson and Jones collaborations to come as they have a great writing chemistry with strong characters and fast paced action filled scenes.

If you like this book then try:
  • Private Royals by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • Zoo 2 by James Patterson and Max DiLallo
  • The hostage by James Patterson and Robert Gold
  • Black and Blue by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Reviewed by Brilla

A fierce and subtle poison by Samantha Mabry

Lucas Knight spends his summers in Puerto Rico with his hotelier father, living a charmed life thanks to his money and his good looks.  Over the years he has formed friendships with the local boys, and more recently with the local girls.  He knows he is entitled and spoilt, but it is also the only life he knows.  He has been accepted by the locals to a certain degree, but he will always be an outsider to them.   

Like the local boys Lucas has grown up hearing the stories about the house at the end of Calle Sol - the stories about the scientist who neglected his wife and kept her trapped in the house, with a myriad of options to how the story ended.  Lucas had his own stories growing up, but like the local boys he has thrown his wishes over the wall for the witch inside.  

Lucas is about to make a startling discovery though - there really is someone living inside the walls of the house at the end of Calle Sol and she has been keeping secrets.  Lucas would never have made the discovery if not for the missing girls, and as more girls go missing Lucas finds himself at the centre of a mystery that could destroy his life.  Everyone in town knows about the witch who lives in the house, but Lucas is the first to see her - and if he is not careful she will destroy him.

A fierce and subtle poison is one of those books that defies you to write a good review - because some of the best parts of the book come about because you discover them as a twist or plot point, not the sort of things you want to put in a review!  I have recently been reading a lot of books that I would have to label as odd or unusual, unique reads that almost defy you to categorise them and A fierce and subtle poison is one of those books.  The island of Puerto Rico is the perfect location for this story, it breathes life into the mythology of the story and the simple and idealistic lives of the local community provide a balance to the excess and luxury of Lucas's life.  

I have the strong feeling this will be a polarising book - there are people who are going to love it and people who are going to hate it.  I wasn't sure if I liked it at first, but by the time I was about a third of the way through and still reading I figured that I was going to finish it after all - which I did in a final sprint over the last 100 pages or so.  

One of the aspects that will annoy some is that Lucas and his friends are almost caricatures of themselves, as though the author has been heavy handed in defining the contrasts between the "white" entitled folk and the locals - but that helps add character to the story and the world they live in.  The spattering of Spanish throughout the book also adds to the charm and realism of the story.  All I can say is give the story a real try, at least the first two sections anyway as that is where the story really takes off.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sisters of salt and iron by Kady Cross

Sisters of salt and iron is the sequel to Sisters of blood and spirit and this is one series where you really need to read them in order - so before you read Sisters of salt and iron or any more of this review read Sisters of blood and spirit!

Life has been a little surreal for Lark and Wren recently - no mean feat considering their very existence is surreal.  Lark has a group of friends and a boyfriend, something a social pariah like her shouldn't expect - talking to your dead sister and ending up in the loony bin tends to really damage a teenage girls reputation.  The most surreal part is that her circle of friends not only accepts Wren, but also embrace her as one of their friends too.  Not surprising considering everything they went through together because of Haven Crest and a particularly nasty ghost.

With Halloween just around the corner things are getting interesting for Lark and Wren, not only are they experiencing weird little jolts, but they are also seeing more and more ghosts.  For Lark all the ghosts are a bit of a challenge, especially when they turn up at school and realise she can see and hear them.  For Wren it is discovering Noah, a ghost from Haven Crest that fills a need she never knew she had - a boyfriend and circle of friends of her own.  As dark forces once again threaten Lark, Wren, and their friends they need to untangle the mystery before innocent parties are hurt or even worse, killed.  As they search for answers they discover secrets about their own family - secrets that could destroy them or set them free.

I love the world of Lark and Wren, not only because Cross has such an unusual ghost mythology, but also because she balances the characters and storyline so well.  Too much attention on the characters would slow this series down and bog it down in detail, too much attention on the action and mythology would make it difficult to connect with the characters - here we have a fantastic blend of characters and story that takes turns leading the dance so you are never bored or distracted.  This series won't appeal to everyone, but it is a great read and I hope that we don't have to wait too long for the next book in the series!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla