Monday, December 31, 2012

Singer by Jean Thesman


Gwenore’s mother is a witch – the evil and powerful Rhiamon. Her whole life has been lived in fear of her mother’s power. Until now, when she must escape. Aided by friends – and fairy folk – Gwenore is hidden in an abbey, until her health recovers, then to a community of women. Gwenore is renamed Mary, then Singer. In the community, Gwenore learns new skills – that of healing and of song. But, still she must run. This time to Ireland. However, fate – or greater powers – intervene and she is landed at Lir. There she befriends the Children of Lir – children of the king. However her mother’s evil reaches even this hidden land. Gwenore must decide which path to take. Can she save the Children of Lir?

Based on a traditional tale, which is similar to Grimm’s ‘Six Swans’.

4 stars from me.

There are many other teen-ish books based on fairy tales, but I’d start with these:

  • The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott.
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley.
  • Deerskin by Robin McKinley.
  • The Elemental Masters series by Mercedes Lackey. [Brilla and I have both reviewed a few Mercedes Lackey's in the past...]
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn.
  • Egerton Hall trilogy by Adele Geras.
  • Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C Wrede.
Reviewed by Thalia.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

Liyana is the Vessel of the Goat Clan, the body that will become the home of their beloved goddess Bayla.  For years she has trained, keeping her body in perfect condition so that it will be a suitable vessel for their goddess, a body that is pure and unblemished.  But on the day of the ceremony that will free Liyana's soul from her body leaving the way open for Bayla, the goddess fails to appear and Liyana finds herself abandoned by her people as they search for a more suitable Vessel.  Left in the desert to die, Liyana instead finds herself in the company of the trickster god Korbyn, the first meeting on what will become an epic quest to find not only Bayla, but all the missing gods and goddesses of the desert.
 
The absence of the gods and goddesses has been noticed by some, and it is a race against time for Korbyn and Liyana to reach the other Vessels in time - because some of the clans may not be as kind as Liyana's was.  It is a dangerous time to be traveling, the sun is punishing, and the desert is struggling under the strain of a great drought that is also wreaking havoc on the Empire that shares a border with the desert people.  It is up to the Vessels to find their gods and goddesses, to release them into the world so they can use their magic to breath life and water back into the desert.  But there is an evil force at work, one that wants to ensure the gods and goddesses never find their way back to the desert.
 
I loved Vessel from the start, it has a richness and depth that you feel from the first words, and the main character of Liyana is right up there with some of the toughest and most believable heroines.  She is not perfect, she is not immortal, she is a girl who feels the plight of her clan and all the people of the desert - but she is also a young woman who doesn't want to die just so a goddess can have her body, even if it means the salvation of her people.  The other characters round out the story, providing balance and a sense of wholeness that would be missing if the story was just about Liyana - the story is about them all, and at times each character has their own moments in the spotlight (even if it may only be for a short time). 
 
The world building here is very detailed, but Durst doesn't bury you under a mountain of detail at the beginning of the story, you learn more about the world as you go along.  It really feels like a traditional story that has been told around a fire for generations, a tale that has maybe grown a little with each retelling.  The story almost has a life of its own at times, and the ending packs a punch that you do not expect.  There is just the right amount of love, adventure, betrayal, danger, and magic to keep the tension and pace moving in this addictive read.  Once I started I didn't want to stop, and the ending was just wow - I now really want to read the other books by this author to see if they meet the same high standard. 
 
I have said this a few times already this year, but this is one of my favourite books of 2012 and highly recommend people try it - and that includes the adults out there.  An absorbing read where you really find yourself cheering on the team when things are going well, mourning with them when things go wrong, and cursing the bad guy when you find out who it is.
 
If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, December 28, 2012

Meeting the family: one man's journey through his human ancestry by Donovan Webster

I’ve watched a couple of docos on the National Geographic channel about the National Geographic’s genographic project and the whole idea of the project, and human genetics, has had a long-term fascination for me (as my university transcript attests, with a stage two Human Evolution paper to my credit).

With all this in mind, I was expecting a lot from this book – particularly with the foreword by Spencer Wells, head of the genographic project. On the whole, it didn’t disappoint. (As long as you can ignore the glaring reference to Christchurch being New Zealand’s national capital, that is. I expect better from you, National Geographic!)

Geographic error aside, this offers a look into one person’s genetic heritage – with the understanding that many of us will have similar genes (at least, if you’re descended from Northern European / British stock). From Tanzania to Lebanon to Uzbekistan to Spain to his home in Virginia, Webster explores the commonalities of human existence, and how the race spread around the globe.

By the end of the journey you, like me, might have been seduced by the apparent simplicity and joy found in the lives of the Hadzabe in Tanzania. You might also be worried about our future. Or maybe, reassured by Webster’s argument – quite sanguine about it. What I can say is that I’m desperate to visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao, but not too sure about their house specialty dessert (I’m not an eating-with-your-hands sort of gal).


Some other intriguing titles you might like are:
  • The seven daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes.
  • The journey of man by Spencer Wells.
  • Homo mysterious by David Barash.
  • The first human by Ann Gibbons.
Reviewed by Thalia.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Counting backwards by Laura Lascarso

Taylor is about to face the consequences of her actions in a big way - she stole a car, and to ensure she learns the error of her ways she has been sent to Sunny Meadows to continue her schooling and to become "rehabilitated".  The school is nothing like she expected, the smiling faces on the brochure were nothing but a lie, and it is a lie she has to live with until she has finished her rehabilitation.  The school is a mental health unit and youth detention centre hidden behind the veneer of a school for teenagers - where the male and female students are kept carefully apart, and every moment of their day is monitored by the safeties. 

Taylor hates the school with a passion, she wants nothing to do with their therapy or their rules, and she wants nothing to do with the Latina Queens who have decided that she needs to learn a lesson too.  She is in a strange place with rules she doesn't understand, and where for the first time in her life she has no way of working the system.  She dreams of escape, the chance to get away, away from the mother who promised to stop drinking but is still a raging alcoholic, and away from the father that tries to control her life and who she always ends up fighting with.  Her friendships on the inside seem to help, but more than anything she wants to get away - from the pain, from the control, and from the way her breath catches in her chest sometimes and makes it hard to breathe.

Counting backwards is a powerful and engrossing novel, one that tackles a topic that is taboo for some authors - teen mental health.  Taylor is a relatively normal teenager, but due to events beyond her control she has developed an anxiety related disorder, one that makes it hard for her to breathe.  Without giving away too much of the story, the disorder has been caused to some degree by her alcohol mother who has always failed Taylor - she promised to give up drinking and be sober, she promised to be a real mother, and she failed at every turn.  The apparent villain of the story is Taylor's father, the one who keeps pushing her to be more, to not make the same mistakes he did. 

This is a story about self discovery, about lashing out at everyone who hurts you (including yourself), and learning to work the system.  Taylor is a broken character, damaged by years of neglect from the person who should have loved and protected her, and it takes a complete breakdown for Taylor to realise exactly who she is and what she really wants.  I don't want to spoil the story too much because the journey you take with Taylor is one of discovery and self discovery, and even though not every teenager will go through what Taylor does, there is an echo of teenage transformation here - of the change from being a teenager making immature decisions, to becoming an adult and making adult decisions. 

The environment feels very real too, and after having visited a care and protection facility here in New Zealand it felt very real when Lascarso talked about the safeties, the isolation room, and the lack of privacy, and how people had to earn the privileges of privacy and personal belongings.  This is a challenging read as it is more than a little emotional, and I wouldn't recommend it for 'tweens or young teens unless they are particularly mature because they may not fully understand all the contexts - but this was an amazing read, one that I enjoyed (although I was not always comfortable) reading from start to finish.

If you like this book then try:
  • Trafficked by Kim Purcell
  • Pushing the limits by Katie McGarry
  • Variant by Robison Wells
  • I swear by Lane Davis
  • The half life of Ryan Davis by Melinda Szymanik
  • Dead to you by Lisa McMann
  • Hate list: A novel by Jennifer Brown
  • Such a pretty girl by Laura Wiess
  • You are my only by Beth Kephart
  • The adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
  • Tighter by Adele Griffin

Reviewed by Brilla

The very hungry zombie: A parody by Michael Teitelbaum and Jon Apple

There are some classics that are just asking for a parody, and The very hungry caterpillar has finally met its match in this funny (and also strangely charming) parody.  The book does not stray too far from the original Eric Carle story, either in terms of illustration style or format, but it has a wicked sense of humour that is both subtle and utterly dead pan at the same time.

This is not a book for the kiddies, it is definitely one for the adults.  The images and words are not suitable for younger children, although older children may appreciate the rhyme.  One of the biggest things that bugged me about the book was the mistake near the beginning - the moon "shone" down on a corpse, it did not "shown" down on a corpse.

This was loads of fun to read and it was passed around the workplace and the house with plenty of glee - it is not often that a parody manages to capture the charm of the original while also making itself completely silly.  A must read - though maybe not during halloween.

If you like this book then try:
  • Go the f**k to sleep by Adam Mansbach
  • All my friends are dead by Avery Monson and Jory John
  • If you give a kid a cookie, will he shut the f**k up?: A parody for adults by Marcy Roznik and Miranda Lemming
  • OMG! That's not my husband ... by Kasey Edwards
  • OMG! That's not my baby ... by Kasey Edwards

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Every other day by Jennifer Barnes

[I know Brilla has already reviewed this, but I thought I'd do it too...

Every other day Kali is human. And, on the other days, not so much. On those days, she’s resistant to pain, heals super fast, and is compelled to hunt the preternatural creatures lose in the world. Therefore, it’s a pain – well, disaster, really – when, on a human day, she realises cheerleading popular girl, Bethany, is destined to die. Bethany has been bitten by a chupacabra. Because of her lifestyle, Kali hasn’t made friends, so is shocked when Skylar approves her. But, Skylar has her own secrets – and a handy bunch of big brothers – all of which will come in very handy, vital, if they are to save Bethany and survive the upcoming battle. And maybe, just maybe, Kali will find out who and what she is.

Not so much action heroine, but a teen discovering her identify within an urban fantasy setting… 4 star read for me.

If you like this one, try:
  • The changeover by Margaret Mahy.
  • The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint.
  • Glass Houses by Rachel Caine.
  • Demon in my view by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.
  • The fallen by Thomas Sniegoski.
  • Waywalkers by Catherine Webb.

Reviewed by Thalia.

The interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Welcome to the world of Ashala Wolf and the Tribe, it is a world where the Balance is the most important thing to many people, an order that must be kept at all costs to stop another Reckoning.  The Reckoning was a time of terror and natural disasters, when the world tore itself apart and what reappeared from the flood waters was not the Earth that we know now.  Settled into their cities, the Citizens live a simple life with no technology and exploiting the land - and people like Ashala are labelled Illegals because of the abilities they have.  Some can talk to animals, others can make the ground shake, or they might be able to make it rain, or in the case of Ashala, they can do amazing things when they are asleep. 

It is not a safe time or place for Ashala and her Tribe, Neville Rose from Detention Centre 3 is determined to stop Ashala - even if it means risking the lives of the Tribe and the staff at the Centre.  Captured by Neville Rose and detained in Centre 3, Ashala is wounded and at their mercy.  They want Ashala because of the secrets in her head, and when they can't get what they want by asking, Rose is prepared to use the machine to get the answers he wants - even though it may mean breaking Ashala's mind.  Trapped, wounded, and with her abilities hampered by the rhondarite collar she wears Ashala is at their mercy - but she is not as vulnerable as she appears.

The interrogation of Ashala Wolf was fresh, original, and kept me on the edge of my seat right from the start.  Kwaymullina has a unique and powerful voice, one that blends together a tense science fiction/adventure with a thoroughly envisioned world view and mythology that has echoes of Aboriginal beliefs.  There is no preaching here, while Ashala and her Tribe live in harmony with the land and the animals that live in/on it, that is not shoved down your throat - they are the way they are because that is the way they have to be. 

This book is gripping, intense, well written and keeps you guessing and off balance right until the end - hopefully the rest of the books in this series are as gripping as this book was a real treat eagerly devoured in one sitting. 

If you like this book then try:
  • Origin by Jessica Khoury
  • Slated by Teri Terry
  • Eve by Anna Carey
  • Legend by Marie Lu
  • Revived by Cat Patrick
  • Enclave by Ann Aguirre
  • Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
  • Wither by Lauren DeStefano
  • Arrival by Chris Morphew

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Emerald by Karen Wallace

Emerald and her brother have always had a distant relationship with their mother. Emerald is much closer to her foster mother, Aunt Frances. Now, after years of ignoring her existence, her mother’s power has come to threaten Emerald’s future. Emerald’s mother has promised her in marriage to Lord Suckley, a gross, ill-mannered, and cruel old man. But, as Emerald begins to discover, this is just a small part of her mother’s plan. A plot to kill the queen – Queen Elizabeth I. In order to discover more, and foil the plot – not to mention avoid marrying Suckley – Emerald must learn to become a court lady. And, by doing so, she must try and keep her family and friends safe – including her pet bear, Molly. All the while, she gathers more secrets, some that could destroy her family and world.
A tale of history, intrigue, and romance. One that doesn't require much thought...
Books of a similar flavour are:
  • Grave mercy by Robin LaFevers. 
  • Ladies in waiting by Laura L. Sullivan.
  • Gilt by Katherine Longshore.
  • At the house of the magician by Mary Hooper.
  • The Queen's lady by Eve Edwards.
  • Tudor Rose by Anne Perry.
  • Tread softly by Kate Pennington.
  • A sweet disorder by Jacqueline Kolosov.
  • The stolen one by Suzanne Crowley.
Reviewed by Thalia.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury

Regency period romance with Egyptian mysteries, adventure, spies, and an unsuitable love interest. What more could a reader want?
 
Agnes loves learning – she knows 10 languages, some of which she taught herself. When stressed, she translates lines from the works of A Lady (Jane Austen) into various languages. In her debut season, she is pursued by the season’s biggest catch, Lord Showalter. However, at his Egyptian mummy unwrapping party, Agnes spirits away a relic from inside the wrappings. And this leads her into adventure and romance, the latter not with Showalter, but with Caedmon, an assistant at the British Museum. Maybe, by the end, she will be able to live her dream of riding a camel in Egypt – and being able to use her brain.
 
I give this one 3.5 stars.
 
If you like this one, try: If you like this one, try:

  • The diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding.
  • Bloody Jack: being an account of the curious adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship's Boy by L.A. Meyer.
  • I'd tell you I love you, but then I'd have to kill you by Ally Carter.
  • Sorcery and Cecelia, or, The enchanted chocolate pot : being the correspondence of two young ladies of quality regarding various magical scandals in London and the country by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.

Reviewed by Thalia.

Feedback by Robison Wells

Feedback is the sequel to Variant and there are some pretty big ***SPOILERS*** in this review because of the amazingly intense cliff hanger at the end of the first book.  If you like to read series in order or think you might read Variant then read it first and don't read anymore of this review.  The surprise is worth the wait - and at least you don't have to wait long for the sequel like the rest of us did.  You have been warned.

Benson is on the outside, he has escaped from the school, but he hasn't escaped their reach.  In a town near the school he finds one of the students from the school, one of the students that was killed, and he makes the amazing discovery that people he thought were just machines are in fact connected to real teenagers who are still very much alive.  With Becky severely injured and unable to travel far he has no choice but to put off his plans for escape - at least for the time being.  Settling into the town isn't easy though, there are people who want to escape and seek their freedom away from the school, there are others who just want to ride it out and see what happens, and there are others who seem to have given up entirely.

Benson has wanted to escape, to get away, but he feels that he has to stay for Becky and keep her safe.  Things get complicated when he is drawn into a bigger escape plan, a plan that seems doomed to fail as long as Maxwell is able to control the students through fear and pain.  As the enemy closes in and loyalties are tested, Benson must make some difficult decisions - should he stay or should be go?  What is more important, one person or a whole town? 

Feedback is the explosive sequel to Variant and it carries on from the cliffhanger of the first book, jumping straight back into the action which took a little bit of getting used to as it has been some time since I read the first book.  Benson is a fascinating and inspiring hero, not because he is super human and rushes into danger, but because you can feel the conflict within him as he tries to balance his decisions, as he has to make sacrifices to do what he thinks is right.  The action is intense and keeps up both the pace and the tension, and once I was past the first few chapters and I had thoroughly settled back in with the cast of characters that made the first book so exciting and gripping, I resented every interruption that got between me and the ending. 

I don't want to give too much away, but there is a sense that there could be another book in this series, and if there is (please let there be Mr. Wells) then I am sure that it will reveal some more gob-smacking secrets like Variant and Feedback did.  According to his website there is going to be a new book in a new series soon called Blackout and I can only hope it is just as good as these two.  Wells is a phenomenal author, not only because he builds such believable characters, but also because he is so good at keeping the tension and the pace moving - he doesn't move so fast that you get left behind, and he doesn't go so slow that you lose interest, he gets it just right.  This is not one for just the guys either, if you enjoy well written action and adventure (and that includes the adults in the audience) then give this series a try.

If you like this book then try:
  • Variant by Robison Wells
  • I hunt serial killers by Barry Lyga
  • I swear by Lane Davis
  • Origin by Jessica Khoury
  • Agent 21 by Chris Ryan
  • Slated by Teri Terry
  • The industry by Rose Foster
  • Legend by Marie Lu

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Haven of obedience by Marina Anderson

Natalie Bowen is used to being in control, she is the owner and editor of a successful magazine, and she knows how to get what she wants when she is in bed - or so she thinks.  When she discovers that her best friend Jan has been to an exclusive weekend retreat where people can get in touch with their true sexual self she decides in an impulsive moment that she would like the same, she would like to reach the same sense of confidence and relaxation that Jan has reached.  For years Natalie has felt as though there is something missing in her relationships, something that drives away the men she has affairs with, men who accuse her of being too dominant and aggressive in bed.

The Haven is not what she expected, but her pride wont let her quit, even though every part of her seems to fight against the rules and discipline of the retreat.  It is a whole new world, one where she has to learn about giving other people pleasure, about delaying her own pleasure, and following the instructions of other people - particularly her tutor Simon.  It is a very different world, and despite some interesting experiences in her first weekend, it is the second weekend that will test what she is willing to learn, what she is willing to take on board.  Everything has always been just right, the way she wants them, but now Natalie needs to learn to let go and do what someone else wants - someone who knows how to make her body scream for more.

It seems as though every book today that deals with BDSM of any kind is automatically compared to Fifty shades - the expected result when a series of books that has BDSM as part of the "package" becomes an international phenomenon.  This automatic comparison does little to benefit books about the subject, and actually does little for Fifty shades either.  Haven of obedience is a slickly written, well presented novel about BDSM that avoids a lot of the cliches and coarse/crude language of other sexually explicit books.  The world Natalie enters is one that appears well researched, and there is a "genuine-ness" to the experiences and conflict that she experiences as she learns more about the world inside and outside the Haven, and learns more about herself. 

There are some graphic sex scenes, more so than the ones in Fifty shades, but they are not as graphic as some of the stories that are out there - and the story is a story with sex in it, rather than a series of sexual encounters strung together with some bad dialogue.  If you enjoyed Fifty shades but found it a bit vanilla, or if you are after an interesting read that is not too graphic, then try Haven of obedience and see if it is your cup of BDSM.

If you like this book then try:
  • Velvet glove by Emma Holly
  • Sweet addiction by Maya Banks
  • Belong to me by Shayla Black
  • Dark secret by Marina Anderson
  • Forbidden desires by Marina Anderson
  • Eighty days yellow by Vina Jackson

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, December 14, 2012

Voodoo doll by Leah Giarratano

Voodoo doll is the sequel to Vodka doesn't freeze, and while this book can be read on its own with no prior knowledge of what happens there is a massive ***SPOILER*** in this book that will ruin one of the nice twists of Vodka doesn't freeze - so be warned if you like to read series with as few ***SPOILERS*** as possible.

Sergeant Jillian Jackson has just been assigned to a new task force which has the sole goal of stopping a crew who are committing increasingly violent home invasion robberies, a crime spree that eventually includes a gruesome murder.  Far from her old partner Scotty, and in a new environment it is a challenge to be accepted by the team.  The crimes are gruesome, and they quickly come to realise that at least one of the criminals is particularly violent with a tendency to want to see blood drawn - machetes are excellent weapons for that kind of work, and the crew are well versed in using them on their victims. 

The case is complicated enough, but when Jill and her new partner Gabriel reinterview the witnesses to the crimes they discover that things are not quite as they seem.  When they talk to two of the victims they realise that something is not quite right, that they are hiding something that happened that night.  Joss has been keeping his inner demons mostly n check with the help of his wife Isobel and their daughter Charlie, but when he recognised one of the crew that did the home invasion on his wife's boss he realises that things are not as settled as he thought - especially when he realises that he was also recognised by the leader.  In an increasingly complicated game of cat and mouse Jill and Gabriel, along with the rest of the task force, have to sort through the bits and pieces they know and think they know, and stop the crew before someone else gets hurt.  While they work on the side of the law, Joss will take the steps he needs to to protect his family.

Voodoo doll is the sequel to Vodka doesn't freeze and it is just as hard hitting as the first book in the series, tackling some pretty gruesome aspects of the crimes and the motivations of the criminals - something that makes this series both more disturbing and more engrossing.  With this book you are not left to guess what makes the killer the way he is, you know because it comes directly from his mind, you don't have to guess because it is laid out before you.  This book was a little harder for me to read than the first book in the series, but to be fair I have been rather distracted while reading it and I thoroughly enjoyed the ending which I was able to read in one sitting rather than picking at the it like I had to with the rest of the book. 

I am looking forward to ordering the next book in the series to see what happens next with Sergeant Jill Jackson.  The character is continuing to evolve and grow, which is only to be expected in terms of normal development as people age, but also in terms of coming to grips with what happened to her and moving forward.

If you like this book then try:
  • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarratano
  • Black ice by Leah Giarratano
  • Private Oz by James Patterson and Michael White
  • The basement by Stephen Leather
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
 Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A history of food in 100 recipes by William Sitwell

I’m not really a foodie – but I am a wee bit obsessed with watching programmes about food and reading recipes. I’m a ‘food voyeur’ (a phrase learnt from this book). I also really like watching history docos and reading books about history, or historical fiction. (Now, if there was a book/doco about the history of food, which featured sport, that would hit my three fav things.)

I am a fan of books about the history of food, particularly if they have recipes (doesn’t mean I’ll make them). Sitwell’s style is informative yet with enough asides to make it personable. From Ancient Egyptian bread (1958-1913BC) to Heston Blumenthal’s Meat Fruit (2012), via pottage, souffl├ęs, cupcakes and lamb korma Sitwell investigates more than just ‘food’, but our relationship with it. The trends of fashion. The treat of ecological disaster. The growth of convenience food. It is enough to make you assess your own food habits.

This one is for more than just foodies and/or history buffs, this should also appeal to those interested and concerned about the environment, and the impact of chemicals in our diet.


If you like this, try:
  • In the devil's garden by Stewart Lee Allen.
  • Simmering through the ages by Roland Rotherham.
  • A taste of history by Bryan Bruce.
  • Full English by Tom Parker Bowles.
Reviewed by Thalia.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The crimson thread by Suzanne Weyn

Bridget and her family have moved from their small village in Ireland to the bustling city of New York, a new place to make their home and their fortunes.  City life is very different from what they are all used to, and Bridget finds the city dirty and depressing.  While the family quickly finds work, they also quickly find trouble and with her father and brothers away Bridget is left alone to look after her youngest brother and little sister while trying to earn enough money to keep them fed and with a roof over their head.

When her father helps her to find what seems like the perfect job, Bridget is happy at first - especially when the handsome James pays her a flattering amount of attention.  Life is fine, things seem to be working, although she is not sure how to take the attentions of Ray, who always seems to be around when she needs him.  When her father boldly claims that she can work miracles with fabric, it seems like she will never be able to live up to the bargain, and with her whole family at risk Bridget will do almost anything to make things work - she will even make a dreadful bargain.

The crimson thread is a retelling of the classic fairytale Rumplestiltskin, but it is so much more than just that.  Weyn has taken a dark tale of lose and desperation, and given it a rich back drop and revamp.  Without ruining the twists within the story, this is a well written story that goes beyond the bare bones of the original tale.  Part romance, part historical fiction, part adventure, this is a story in its own right, an enjoyable read that doesn't feel like the same old story told over - it has echoes of the original story, but it also has a charm all its own.  There is a trend to retell fairytales, and there are also elements of traditional stories and fairytales that seem to end up in stories (whether the author intended them to or not) and this was one of the better ones I have read.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla 

Friday, December 7, 2012

I swear by Lane Davis

Leslie Gaitlin was pushed to breaking point, and for her breaking point meant climbing into her mothers car in the garage with the exhaust fumes slowly draining away her life - a fatal and final decision that has repercussions for those around her.  For years Leslie was on the receiving end of the wrong kind of attention, she was the focus of Macie Merricks undivided attention, all because the boy Macie wanted was interested in Leslie instead.  One petty teenage tyrant, used to getting whatever and whoever she wants, and she will stop at nothing to make Leslie's life a living hell.

This is one of the most powerful books I have read this year, an emotional read that was impossible to put down, but that also had to be read in small doses at times because of the sheer emotional nature of what was happening.  As debut novels go this is a mind blowing read, packed with strongly defined characters working through an intricate relationship of love, hate, betrayal, and hope.  What is particularly impressive for me (and please forgive me if this seems sexist) is the way that Lane Davis has developed his characters and the voices of his characters - particularly the female characters, no easy feat for a male author. 

There are genuine voices for these characters, the personalities come through loud and clear, without depending on all the cliches - some are there but they are cliches for a reason, some people really are like that.  There are the odd moments when the language seems a little put on, but on the whole this novel has a true teenage voice, and is a must read for anyone who is being bullied, or for those trying to understand more about why bullying occurs.  The chapters flip about from one character to the next so you get to see each characters point of view without Davis having to resort to the "voice of god" technique for describing emotions and events, and the personal viewpoints make the story more real - you know how the different characters feel because they tell you in their own words.

I swear is hopefully the first of many novels from Davis, it is a polished and well written first novel that had me hooked right from the start - I was so involved that at times I had tears in my eyes, a sympathetic response to the characters.  Macie is a character that everyone will love to hate, and the cast of minions and victims around her each have a voice that adds to the story and the drama.  At the odd moment some of the dialogue fails to ring totally true, but it doesn't distract from a truly powerful debut novel that deserves to come to the attention of readers all over the world.

If you like this book then try:
  • Hate list by Jennifer Brown
  • Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Whale talk by Chris Crutcher
  • Pushing the limits by Katie McGarry
  • Out of reach by Carrie Arcos
  • Staying fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What to do if an elephant stands on your foot by Michelle Robinson and Peter H. Reynolds

If an elephant stands on your foot, keep calm.
Panicking will only startle it.

That is just the start of a delightful and surprising picture book of misfortune and fortune as one child manages to blunder from wildlife accident to wildlife encounter to wildlife accident again.  There are lumbering elephants and charming rhinos, and a whole lot of other animals that creep, run, jump, and snap. 

Telling you too much about the story will ruin the surprises, but this is definitely a story that needs to be read out loud, and don't worry if you are not that good at reading out loud because this book almost reads itself.  This is a book for the boys and for audience participation, but it will be enjoyed by children of all ages who enjoy a good romp through their story, and who like books they can read over and over again.

If you like this book then try:
  • A is for musk ox by Erin Cabatingan and Matthew Myers
  • Shout! Shout it out! by Denise Fleming
  • Too many elephants in the house by Ursula Dubosarsky; illustrated by Andrew Joyner
  • One funky monkey by Stacey McCleary, illustrated by Sue Degennaro
  • Wait! No paint! by Bruce Whatley
  • The library dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Once by Anna Carey

Once is the sequel to Eve, the first book in the Eve trilogy.  Because it is book two in the series there are ***SPOILERS*** in this review.

Eve has been living in Califia, free of the King and his plans for her - or so she thinks.  Captured while on the run, Eve is taken to the City of Sand where she finds out why the King has really been after her all this time, she is not his future wife, she is really his daughter.  It is a shock and almost seems like a betrayal to learn this bitter truth, and realising that she is a prisoner in a gilded cage seems too much to take - until she discovers that Caleb is also in the City of Sand.  Living a double life, Eve tries to find a balance between the world she has left behind and still has contact with through Caleb, and the new world of the City where she is entitled to a world of wealth and privilege because her father is the King.

Once follows on from Eve in explosive fashion, a gripping sequel in what promises to be one of the best trilogies of recent years.  Eve is an engaging character and I couldn't help but get absorbed in the world she lives in, one that is only a few decades into our future.  Thanks to watching movies and TV shows like CSI I can visualise some of the environments of the City of Sand, but you don't really need to have that background because the story carries you along.  Sometimes the sequel can dip, losing something between the first and second book, but the Eve trilogy is still going strong and I really hope that Anna Carey is working on the final book in the series so I can find out how things end for Eve.

Don't let the relatively short review deceive you - I really enjoyed Once, but if I tell you too much it might ruin some of the twists in the story and reduce your enjoyment of this great read.

If you like this book then try:
  • Eve by Anna Carey
  • The hunger games by Suzanne Collings
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Among the hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Inside out by Maria V. Snyder
  • Virals by Kathy Reichs
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • The selection by Kiera Cass
  • Slated by Teri Terry
  • The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan


Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Simon's cat by Simon Tofield

Cat owners the world over will no doubt recognise the antics of their own cats in this charming book by Simon Tofield - a somewhat autobiographical graphic novel about a man and his demanding cat.  What began as a series of short clips on YouTube about a cat with a fondness for food and causing mischief for his owner has grown into a series of graphic novels as well.
 
Told without words, and sometimes without a real structure, the book is charming and conveys the relationship between the (long suffering) owner and the cat in quick and simple pen strokes that capture the mood perfectly.  From paw prints all over the bed, to a destroyed back garden, there is something here for cat lovers all over the world.
 
To explain too much is to distract from the charm of the book - a must read for cat fans.
 
Check out the official website for a taste of Simon's cat.
 
If you like this book then try:
  • Simon's cat: Beyond the fence by Simon Tofield
  • Simon's cat: Feed me! by Simon Tofield
  • Simon's cat: In kitten chaos by Simon Tofield
  • Simon's cat vs the world by Simon Tofield
 
Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, November 26, 2012

A witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton

The move from London to Winter is not exactly smooth sailing for Anna and her father, the house is old and falling apart, and the towns people are not particularly friendly either.  Trying to make the best of the situation, Anna makes some friends and tries to settle into a routine waiting for the day she can escape away to university.  But when she mucks about with a book of spells that her dad found in the house, Anna finds herself with a new boyfriend - the local heart throb Seth.  Anna doesn't know what to do, it was an innocent mistake, she had no idea that she was a witch.

Forget the stories and the rumours, witches are real and so is magic, and Anna is about to discover that there are sides to every story and she is going to have to choose a side.  Coping with the sudden appearance of magical talent is bad enough, but she also has to deal with what has happened to Seth, and her growing feelings towards him - but how can she know if anything he feels is real when he is under an enchantment?  Friendship, family, love - if you had to choose which choice would you make?

A witch in Winter was a gripping read that threaded together so many different elements into a seamless whole.  There is magic, adventure, mystery, and love - all in the right doses to make you fall in love with Anna and her world without making you feel like you are stuck in a soap opera.  Anna is so normal she could be any girl, except for her secret heritage of being a witch.  There is action and danger, and there is also some well thought out magic and mythology.  This is not a heavy read, but it is engrossing, and I resented every time I had to put it down to do something else (like go to work) which is kind of rare for me these days. 

The first in a trilogy, I am eagerly waiting for book two so I can see what happens next with Anna and Seth as the ending was satisfying in its conclusion, but it also left me wanting to find out what happens next because something else is definitely coming - something big.  A witch in Winter is a great read that deserves a quiet afternoon so you can enjoy the book in one sitting as it deserves, Warburton is a great author who has a way with words - making it seem almost as if the story reads itself.

If you like this book then try:
  • A witch in love by Ruth Warburton
  • The iron witch by Karen Mahoney
  • Raised by wolves by Jennifer Lynne Barnes
  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
  • Anna dressed in blood by Kendare Blake
  • The selection by Kiera Cass
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
  • Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara

Riveting and detailed world-building are what makes this so appealing, at least to me. The characters have believable personalities and foibles.

The main character, Kaylin, has a history - a background that begins to be revealed as the story progresses, but with much a mystery.

As the first in a series (currently still being published) Cast in shadow leaves so much unanswered that you really do need to keep on with the series.

Quick precis: Kaylin is a Hawk, a law officer, in a city in a fantastical world. The Hawks contain members of many races: Aerin (winged-people); Barrani (elf-like); humans; one Leontine (lion-people) and one dragon. There is also the Tha'alani (mind-readers, for want of a short description). In other words, a complete otherworldly cast.

There is also crime. And murder. Most particularly, a series of murdered young children - in a case similar to one six years previously, when Kaylin was herself a child. The similarities are so strong, that Kaylin is brought into the case, along with Severn (from her past) and Tiamaris (the dragon in the Hawks). The trio are sent into Lord Nightshade's Fief (basically a gangland, ruled by a Fieflord, rather than the rule of Imperial Law).

Kaylin is a very human hero - her reaction to meeting Severn is telling. But is only after many pages you discover why. Her trigger-point is children, a fact which never alters through the series. Sometimes you want to climb into the book and shake her. Which goes to show, just how emotionally involved you become in the story, and the characters. For me, that's a sign of a very well-written book. Another? In less than a week, I've read the next two in the series. Which isn't bad, considering I don't have much time for reading...

If you like this, then you could try:
Reviewed by Thalia.

Shine light by Marianne de Pierres

Shine light is the third book in the night creatures trilogy so this review has ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in the earlier books, so if you like to read series in order then don't read any further.

Naif has returned to the mysterious island of Ixion with information that is almost too shocking to be true - the Grave elders benefit from the young people who flee to Ixion, their attempts to keep their young people from leaving is just an act.  Knowing that they benefit from the deaths of their own people helps Naif make the decision to return to Ixion and help stop the Ripers from using the island as their own personal playland - a place that they rule and where the people they appear to offer freedom to are nothing but cattle for the slaughter, a source of power and transformation.

But the Ixion Naif returns to is not the same island she left, things have changed.  The leadership of the rebel bands on the island have changed, ideas and alliances have shifted, and not just among the humans - the Ripers are at war too.  Brand has grabbed power and Lenoir is in hiding with a group of followers, moving from place to place to avoid confrontations as Brand gains greater control of the island.  The only chance for success is for Naif to gather forces together to find the missing uther queen and free the uthers from their slavery to the Ripers, because without the uthers the structure of the island will collapse and lead them down the path towards revolution and rebellion. 

Shine light is the final book in the night creatures trilogy and it is a satisfying conclusion to the series, a final chapter but not necessary the final story.  This series is a blend between a richly imagined world described in rich language, and a fast paced story that doesn't intimidate its readers by being too densely or cleverly written.  At times it feels a little bit of a let down that there is not more depth to the story, but it is nice to have a series that anyone can read.  Naif makes both a great heroine and an anti-heroine  - she is the centre of the story and the driving force for the action, but she also is just like everyone else, anyone could be her and she could be anyone.

I was up and down with this series, at times loving it at times unimpressed, and there was the odd moment with this one where it seemed like the editing could have been better, but de Pierres took two popular themes (dystopias and vampires) and created a fresh take, one that created a believable world and reached a satisfying conclusion.  Hopefully there will be more books in the future with the same fresh vision from this promising author, and hopefully there will be more "flesh on the bones" of future novels because this one was a little thin for my personal taste.

If you like this book then try:
  • Burn bright by Marianne de Pierres
  • Angel arias by Marianne de Pierres
  • The treachery of beautfiul things by Ruth Francis Long
  • The hunt by Andrew Fukuda
  • Banished by Sophie Littlefield
  • Daughter of smoke and bone by Laini Taylor
  • Thyla by Kate Gordon
  • The demon trapper's daughter by Jana Oliver

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A is for musk ox by Erin Cabatingan & Matthew Myers

Now, this is an alphabet book demanding to be read aloud and shared! 

A must for those who are into words and humour - older children will enjoy this twist on the traditional alphabet book, with 'a is for apple'...

Joseph, a musk ox, manages to take over pretty much the whole alphabet with words related to musk oxen... it's surprising how he finagles it.

A joyous celebration of words and word play.

Read it and enjoy!

Other rambunctious alphabet books to try out are:
  • The dangerous alphabet by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Grimly.
  • An annoying ABC by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley.
  • Z is for moose by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinksy.
  • Shout! Shout it out! by Denise Fleming.
~ Reviewed by Thalia.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarratano

Jillian "Jill" Jackson is a Sergeant in Sydney who earned her stripes, but at the cost of alienating a number of her colleagues.  She has the loyalty of her partner Scotty and knows that he has her back - even though at times the school boy way he deals with things make matters worse rather than better.  Jill has worked hard her whole life, hiding deep inside the fact that she was abducted and raped as a child, something that comes a little too close to the surface when a paedophile is killed on a beach overlooking a pool where children swim and play.  It's not too bad at first, but when the next victim is found Jill finds her old nightmares and her new compulsions coming to the surface. 

Hunting down the killer is a low priority for a lot of cops, it's just bad guys getting what they deserve, but Jill tackles the case with the utmost professionalism - the person they are hunting is still a serial killer, even if the people they are killing are scum.  As the case progresses Jill is placing herself in danger, the paedophiles the killer is hunting are not keen for Jill and Scotty to get too close, if they do then they might discover the club that has been operating for decades in the suburbs of Syndey.  Who is the hunted and who is the hunter in this twisted game of cat and mouse - and will Jill make it out unscathed?

This is an explosive read that tackles an interesting moral dilemma - would you give your all to find the killer of paedophiles, especially if you were a victim of childhood sexual abuse yourself?  Right from the start this was a gripping read that I did not want to put down, mainly because the motivations of the killer and police seems so real, etched in detail without drowning you in the details.  Giarratano has a knack with words, drawing her expertise into the story without bashing you over the head with it - providing her characters with amazing depth without dragging the story down with the weight of too many words.  The action is deftly handled, staying within the realm of reality, and helping to ratchet up the suspense and keeping up the frantic pace of the story. 

Jill and her world is not perfect, she has her flaws and her demons, as do those around her.  This is the first book in a series featuring Jill and I can't wait to get hold of the second book to see if Giarratano is able to keep the series moving at the same momentum with the same realistic character development.  The subject matter is not pleasant, and while there is not graphic references to paedophilic acts, there is enough here that it will make some readers uncomfortable, but that said she seems to handle it with sensitivity rather than just using it as a plot tool.

If you like this book then try:
  • Voodoo doll by Leah Giarratano
  • Private Oz by James Patterson and Michael White
  • In the woods by Tana French
  • The survivors club by Lisa Gardner
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Guardian angel by Robert Muchamore

Guardian angel is the sequel to People's Republic so there are ***SPOILERS*** in this review for people who haven't read People's Republic yet.  CHERUB is a fantastic series that is best enjoyed when read in the right order, and this is especially true in the case of this series. 

Ryan is back on campus after he was kicked off his last mission for pushing a senior member of the team - not a shining star on his record.  He has settled back into the routine of the campus, hanging with his mates and (almost) doing his coursework.  Ning is on her basic training, closer to becoming a fully fledged CHERUB agent, only a few more days to go.  Neither of them knows that they are about to be thrust into a new mission, one that involves Ethan Aramov and his family.  Ethan's grandmother is dying of terminal cancer and her son Leonid is plotting to take over the clan business, and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants and he sees his nephew Ethan as nothing more than a pawn in his dangerous game.

Ethan is in need of his guardian angel more than ever, and somehow Ryan has to find a way to slot back into Ethan's life without causing him to be suspicious about what is happening.  As events start to roll faster and faster Ethan finds himself making choices that are a matter of life and death - for him and those around him.  Ethan is not part of clan business because he was raised in America and is too American for some of the family, but he is an Aramov and his grandmother will do what she can to protect him from the other members of the clan - as long as he stays loyal to the family.  This is not a mission for the faint hearted and Ryan has a lot riding on it - hoping that he can prove himself to the others, and himself.

Guardian angel is the second book in the new CHERUB trilogy, and while it is a good book, it feels as though there are pieces missing from the story, as though Muchamore wrote it in a bit of a hurry, or as if the printers forgot to include a few chapters.  It has the same high octane pace, and the characters are still relateable or hateable, but there are times (especially at the beginning) when the flow of the story is lost and you feel like you are missing something (there is a specific example but it would be a spoiler to share it here).  The characters are well developed and it is nice to read about characters that have character flaws, like a really wicked temper, or where the characters make mistakes like everyone else does.  Although the idea of CHERUB is made up (at least that is the official story), the books are so well written and the characters are so genuine that you can imagine some students involved with something like CHERUB in the real world going "yup, that's how it really happens".

Muchamore is one of the best teen writers of this generation.  His writing is real, he doesn't talk down to his readers, and he uses real teen language - or at least it sounds authentic for someone who isn't from the UK and up on all the UK slang.  This series, and later books in the first CHERUB series are best suited to older teen readers as there is mature content including violence, swearing, and criminal activities, but that is a refreshing change from books for teens that fumble with fitting into any category - either pitching too high or too low.  Guardian angel was an exciting and addictive read devoured in an afternoon and I can't wait to read Black Friday to see how the story arc across the novels is brought to a close.

If you like this book then try:
  • People's republic by Robert Muchamore
  • The recruit by Robert Muchamore
  • Subject seven by James A. Moore
  • The Industry by Rose Foster
  • Agent 21 by Chris Ryan
  • XVI by Julia Karr
  • The arrival by Chris Morphew
  • Virals by Kathy Reichs
  • Variant by Robison Wells
  • Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
  • Trafficked by Kim Purcell

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pushing the limits by Katie McGarry

Echo is one of the school freaks, the girl who vanished for a month at the end of school sophomore year, and returned the next school year wearing long sleeves everyday to hide the scars running up and down her arms.  The rumours are she is a cutter, that she tried to commit suicide - but the truth is much worse.  Echo's never tells anyone what happened that night, it's a secret she wont tell, not because she doesn't want to, but because she can't.  Echo has no memory of what happened that night, all she knows is that something bad happened with her mother, something so bad that there is a restraining order in place and her mother can't see her.  Instead of enjoying her last year of high school Echo is instead forced to spend time with the new social worker, while at home she waits for the step witch to give birth to the new baby - a baby which will fill the space left by Echo's brother who died in Afghanistan.  The baby who will complete the take over of her family - new mother, new baby, and the old Echo.

Noah is one of the stoners, the school stud who can show a girl a good time on a one night stand - as long as she doesn't expect a relationship he can be what she wants.  Forced to spend time with the school social worker because he attacked his first foster father, all Noah wants is to finish high school and get a good job so he can gain custody of his younger brothers.  He knows what he wants, and he is determined to bring his family back together, even though it has been two years since the fire that killed his parents nothing can shake his plans.  Angry at the system that split up his family, and bitter about the way things have turned out, Noah is on the fast track to losing everything.

When the social worker thrusts Echo and Noah together, it is a matter of convenience for them to play nicely and do what she wants.  But as time passes, Echo and Noah realise that they could really help each other, especially if they can help each other read their files.  In Noah's file is the full name of the foster parents who are trying to block his access to his brothers, the people who would stop at nothing to make sure that his brothers can't see him as they file for custody of the boys.  In Echo's file is the information about the night she can't remember, the night she was betrayed.  But through the course of planning their big plan, they realise that they are more than just partners in crime - but are they both ready to admit that they need someone else in their lives, are they ready to let someone else in?

Too often, authors take the gritty and realistic and turn it into something light and fluffy, or they down play the emotional drama that surrounds trauma - but that is not the case with Pushing the limits.  This is not a book for younger teens, not only because of the mature language , but also because most younger teens would have no concept of what the characters are going through.  Rather than taking the easy way out with this story, Katie McGarry has done the characters and their lives justice, giving them highs and lows and moments of realisation.  It is not an easy story to read because of the emotional baggage of bother characters, but it was a read I thoroughly enjoyed and I had to keep reading to see how it ended - giving up TV for a few hours so I could devote my time to Noah and Echo.

If you like this book then try:
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • Trafficked by Kim Purcell
  • Such a pretty girl by Laura Wiess
  • Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott
  • You are my only by Beth Kepart
  • Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher
  • Hate list by Jennifer Brown

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Beta by Rachel Cohn

Elysia is a clone on the idyllic island of Demesne, created to fulfil the pleasure of the privileged humans who live in the enriched environment of the island the sea of Io that surrounds it.  She is a beta though, a first edition, limited and exclusive, the only successful clone to be made a teenager rather than an adult.  The fact she is a beta, unproven is too much for the Governors wife to resist and Elysia finds herself drawn into the strange and surreal family of the Governor, his wife, and their two children.  As a clone Elysia knows that she has no real emotion, she can not feel, she can not taste, she can not love - she is not human and has no soul.  But as time passes in the Governors home she begins to realise that she is different, that she is not what she is supposed to be - that she might be a Defect.

Elysia has seen what happens to a Defect, they are tortured, studied, and then discarded.  She knows she has to hide what she is becoming, but that becomes harder and harder - especially when she finds herself spending more and more time with Ivan and his friends.  It is a dangerous time for Elysia, there are problems with some of the clones on Demesne, more of them are coming awake, wanting more than a clones life - wanting to be free and equal.  When she is pushed too far Elysia will have to make a choice that could have greater consequences than just a moment in the life of a teenage beta clone.

Beta was a fascinating idea, a concept that seems well thought out and well imagined, but the delivery was just rather *meh*.  I had high hopes for the story, and only kept reading to the end because I really hoped it would get better,  The dialogue is rather wooden, and the storyline is rather clumsy in the way it is portrayed, and while I hoped at first that this was just because we were seeing the world through Elysias eyes and the world was new to her that things would get better - but sadly they really didn't.  Overall it kind of felt like someone had taken a blockbuster movie and let a bunch of high school students film it on hand held cameras - the passion was there, but it just lacked the polish and oomph of a well shot movie. 

There are some nice little twists in the story, and the ending packs a wallop, but if you have sophisticated reading tastes you may find this a little bland, and hopefully Rachel Cohn will be able to bring more warmth and humanity to the next book in the series, or at least liven up the dialogue and the "scenes" so that they aren't so flat and wooden.  There are also times when it feels as though this would have made a great read for older teens, but that it was watered down so younger teens would be able to cope with the material - maybe for the next book Cohn can choose which side of the fence she wants to sit on and that will do justice to the story rather than failing for both age groups.  I liked the book, but I would have loved it if it had been a little more "real", and if it had not been so confused about where it fits on the bookshelves.

If you like this book then try:
  • Origin by Jessica Khoury
  • The selection by Kiera Cass
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • Wither by Lauren DeStefano
  • Partials by Dan Wells

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, November 9, 2012

NYPD Red by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

New York is about to host the Hollywood on Hudson film festival, a huge event with the goal of making New York a desirable place to shoot movies and series, a place where Hollywood can feel at home away from LA.  But it is not going to be smooth sailing this week, because the Chameleon has plans of his own for the big week, he has the perfect movie all planned out, and he has the means to make it happen.  The first act of his great movie goes off without a hitch, although the follow through was not quite what he was expecting.  The second goes to plan as well - for the most part.  One thing the Chameleon didn't count on was the team from NYPD Red, the task force created to protect the elite of New York.

With his partner on the sidelines with an injury, Detective Zach Jordan is teamed up with an old flame, Detective Kylie MacDonald.  McDonald is smart, driven, and has an inside edge with the film industry through her husband.  Despite some reservations about working with an ex-girlfriend, Jordan soon finds himself too involved with the case to worry about the past.  The killer they are chasing is smart, organised, and has a firm grasp of the film industry - seemingly able to hide in plain sight.  As his crimes get more and more daring, and as the spotlight on the crimes grows, Jordan and MacDonald find themselves in a race against time to stop the Chameleon before he can complete his final act.

NYPD Red is another great read from James Patterson and Marshall Karp, and is one of the more enjoyable ones I have read lately.  The plot is well thought out and keeps up a rapid pace through each act of the screenplay inside the Chameleons head, while also driving the story from the point of view of Jordan and MacDonald.  The human relationships help to drive this story, the interplay between characters and the clashing together of the two streams of the story.  It was a gripping read, one that could be spoilt if I give away too much of the plot here, needless to say the Chameleon is a great "villain" and the two cop "heroes" are well matched and provide a great counterpoint to the villain - and there are the odd trademark Patterson twists to keep you guessing what will come next.

If you like this book then try pretty much any other James Patterson, especially any other books written with Marshall Karp.

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, November 5, 2012

The treachery of beautiful things by Ruth Frances Long

Jenny is used to funny looks and laughter behind her back, ever since her brother Tom vanished she has had to live with the knowledge that everyone else thinks she is crazy.  If she wasn't crazy, how else could she have seen the trees in the forest snatch him into shadows one night, never to be seen again.  She has spent seven years in therapy and hidden away from home at a boarding school, but when she finally finds the courage to say goodbye to Tom in the spot where he was taken, she finds herself in a new world, one from fairytale and legend.  As the sounds of the Piper draw her deeper into this new world, Jenny finds herself surrounded by people who all have their own agenda, and who all want something only she can give them - whether she is willing to or not.

The treachery of beautiful things is one of those books where describing too much about the story can actually ruin the enjoyment of the story because some of the pleasure comes from learning where the story will take you next.  The story draws heavily on myth, folklore, and fairytale, taking characters that are familiar to many fantasy readers and blending them together into an enjoyable read that has real weight to the story without trying to be so clever that it buries the story under the weight of the mythology.  There is an enjoyable subtlety to the story, one that some reviewers have described as a lack of substance, but for me it made the story more accessible and enjoyable because the story was allowed to proceed at its own pace, and while there are echoes of other stories because of the characters - this is definitely its own story and own book.

This is an enjoyable and engaging first novel, one that I was a little surprised to enjoy because it is not normally my thing.  Jenny is a charming character and you get to experience a lot through her eyes - which adds to the story rather than detracting from it.  Hopefully this will not be the only book from this well written author.

If you like this book then try:
  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
  • Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
  • Snow in summer: Fairest of the them all by Jane Yolen
  • Entwined by Heather Dixon
  • Innocent darkness by Suzanne Lazear
  • Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fifty shades of Grey by E.L. James

Anastasia "Ana" Steele is about to finish her finals for college and graduate with a literature degree when she finds herself travelling to Seattle to interview entrepreneur Christan Grey as a favour for her room mate Kate.  Ana finds herself instantly attracted to Christian Grey, and their interview is an odd experience as she finds herself strangely daring asking questions that are not on Kate's lists, questions that pop into her mind during the interview.  Grey leaves her slightly unbalanced and she is not sure why, and when he finds his way into her life she is even more uncertain about her feelings.  She is strongly attracted to him, but he also has a commanding air about him that can be more than a little off putting.  He controls his business affairs with an iron fist, and while he isn't cruel he is domineering and expects to be in control of his life - all aspects of his life.

When they embark on a sexual affair, Ana has no idea what she is letting herself in for - she is sexually inexperienced and has never investigated the world of BDSM that Christian craves.  At his apartment Christian introduces Ana to his world, a secret life where he is the master of his pleasure and his companions learn to please him in every way - a relationship that includes a lengthy contract and very strict rules.  It is a huge step for Ana, especially when Christian wants to shower her with gifts to keep her in a lifestyle like his - while her inner voice calls her a "ho" for exchanging sex for gifts.  It is a confusing time, and things are not straight forward for Christian either, as he experiences a great many firsts in Ana's company and for her sake.  Their relationship is not conventional to many, and as they learn more about each other, it may also drive them further apart.  Can they both make compromises to keep each other in their lives - or will the fifty shades of Grey drive them apart.

Fifty shades of Grey is a phenomenon and I thought it was time that I got around to reading it as it seems to be one of the defining books of the past year or so, the start of a trilogy that has been credited with creating a miniboom in the publishing industry - especially for erotic novels.  After reading it I can see where the "mummy porn" label comes from, in comparison to a lot of the novels out there that are described as erotic fiction it is very tame, but it also has a deeper storyline than most erotic novels as well.  Usually the story would happen in one book, the character experiences the lifestyle and either falls in love with it over time or they are already part of the lifestyle and they are looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right.  Fifty shades of Grey has an underlying complexity that is missing in other erotic novels, although it is not always brought to the surface in the writing as artfully as it could be. 

Throughout the novel we learn that Christian has some very real hangups, like not wanting to be touched, and you learn a little about his past.  You also get a sense that Ana is a little damaged too, that her lack of confidence and self esteem comes from something in her past too - or maybe it is just from constantly comparing herself to her almost perfect room mate Kate who has money, looks, and intelligence.  At times the writing is a little clunky, feeling like it should have been edited a little more firmly, but as first novels go it is not bad.

This is not a novel for the person looking for a quick and dirty read with really graphic sex scenes, the scenes when they happen are quite tame, and not very graphic - the emphasis is on the relationship building and the human interaction than the mechanics of the sexual acts themselves (which is a little refreshing in this area of publishing).  I did enjoy reading Fifty shades more than I thought I would and will read the next one in the series just to see what happens. 

If you like this book then try:
  • Fifty shades darker by E.L. James
  • Fifty shades freed by E.L. James
  • Velvet glove by Emma Holly
  • Belong to me by Shayla Black

Reviewed by Brilla