Monday, January 31, 2011

Midnight Witchery

I shall Wear Midnight
Terry Pratchett
Book 4, Tiffany Aching

Genre: fantasy
Audience: Ages 12+ (with a few swearwords and mature concepts)
Rating: 5/5

If any author deserved a Knighthood, it is most certainly Sir Terry Pratchett. This book was his offering for 2011 and is a splendid "cross-over" novel - which means to say it should appeal to young and old alike. The indomitable Terry Pratchett spirit is alive and well here - with a sprinkling of puns, delightful use of language, parody and humour. Tiffany is back in full spirit in what is the last of her adventures (at least to be cast in print). With any luck we shall see her make an appearance in some later novels. Speaking of making an appearance, there's a few faces here that will be familiar to faithful readers - and I'm not talking about the irrepresible Nanny Ogg!

Tiffany has now earned her pointed hat and is the Witch of the Chalk. This is not a job to be taken lightly, with too many sleepless nights taking their toll. And something is stirring. Something dark and ancient. Something that witches, throughout the centuries, have learnt to fear. Suddenly it seems that the world is turning against witches and Tiffany must face the danger - but she's not alone. She's got her faithful Nac Mac Feegle friends to watch her back - and, as usual, they're spoiling for a fight.

Good stuff indeed!

Here's my review of book #2 - written in 2005, as you can see, I was trying to be a wee bit clever...

Hat Full of Sky
(sequel to "Wee Free Men")

Ach crivens! Tiffany Aching, the big wee hag has returned. Two years hae passed since she beat the scuggan fairie queen wi' nothin' more then her fryin' pan an' 'er wits. Now she's got somethin' more to contend with. She's off ter start her 'prenticeship wi' the peculiar hag Miss Level, and ter meet some other big wee hags her own age. But there's an eldritch beastie out ter get 'er. But it's a beastie ye cannae hit, one that gets inside ye head and takes o'er ye body an' ye mind. Luckily, she's got the Nac Mac Feegle Big Man, Rob Anybody, an' 'is pack of willin' volunteers ter 'elp her, aye?

Another fine offering from Terry Pratchett, whose children's books not only teach the reader some new words (thanks to Tiffany and her dictionary reading habits) but he does not write down to his audience although he's not as harsh on his characters as Eoin Colfer. A good, and very fun read with some serious moments and a good gutsy heroine. A delightful read for young an' old alike.

And ye cannae forget the Nac Mac Feegle, the wee red-haired pictsies what were thrown out of Fairyland fer being pished* all the time.

* According to the glossary of commonly used Feegle words, pished translates as "tired".

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Bounty Hunter, Stephanie Plum

The "Stephanie Plum" series is an excellent blend of chick-lit and crime novel. Highly addictive, they are also best read in singles or pairs as I suspect reading three or more in a row would dampen the enjoyment. And thus I began reading this series in 2005 and really had to dig deep to track down my original reviews. After some seeking I finally managed to unearth my 2003-2005 book reviews website - which I updated religiously for two years or so, before I got bored with it. With any luck, this blog will last longer. And maybe earn more readers?

Having discovered one of my friends owns all the books, I have been borrowing them off her in steady increments. And pacing myself.

High Five
Janet Evanovich

Genre: Chick-lit/Crime
Audience: Women with a good sense of humour
Rating: 4/5

Our favourite sassy bounty hunter is back - and once again - she's broke. Her only job - a bad-tempered computer nerd who's jumped bail on a concealed weapon charge. But no Stephanie Plum tale can be so ordinary. Before we know it, she's hunting for an old man that may have been kidnapped by aliens; a psychotic murderer is on parole and on her tail; she's got a midget hiding in her closet; an Italian watching her every move and she's forced to take work from the mysterious Ranger, who has ethics of his own. And to top it all off, there's Joe Morelli as well, still pursuing her with determination (and lust) in his eyes...

My reviews of the earlier titles:

One for the Money
A very quick and easy read, with enough light-hearted comedy intermingled with action, violence and some frankly quite frightening scenes to keep you on your toes and turning the pages.

Stephanie Plum is down on her luck - she's lost her job, sold off half her stuff and not only that, she has to face a meal with her dinner-at-six parents. It is then that they suggest she takes up working with cousin Vinnie, a "debt collector" of a different kind - he brings in felons that have failed to appear in court. Thrown into the job as a bounty hunter, Stephanie is given the mission to bring in one Joe Morelli, a former ex-cop wanted for murder. He just also happens to be the irresistable macho pig that took her virginity and then wrote the details on the bathroom wall of Mario's Sub Shop. Not only that, but there's also the problem of the heavyweight stalker...

Looks like Stephanie really has her work cut out for her - especially since she doesn't even know how to load her gun.

Two for the Dough
The return of Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter not-so-extraordinare with her usual flare of luck and with a new felon to catch, and a very nasty one. And to make things worse, he's cousin to that charming bastard, Joe Moreilli. He's also a twisted sadist and when pieces of embalmed bodies start showing up, Stephanie can only hope she hasn't gone one case too far.

More light-hearted fun and crime from Evanovich, a good and easy read for a rainy day. I think, however, I might wait a few months afore delving back into the world of Stephanie Plum.

Three to get Deadly
Another fun, fast-paced crime novel with a feisty heroine, sexy men, exploding cars, wise-as-ex-prostitutes and an all round crazy plot. Great fun for a quick, relaxing read.

Four to Score
An entertaining aeroplane read. Enjoyable, as always with some nifty sex scenes. If you like that kinda thing. It's classic Evanovich - she's one of those tongue-in-cheek (and in some cases, hand-on-cheek) with bitchin' heroines, sexy, mysterious men, a rollicking mystery that seems to tie in three different threads. Sassy and fun, with a bit of excitement for good measure.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Life as a Dog

Eva Hornung

Genre: Contemporary/Literary
Audience: Mature audiences (adults)
Rating: 5/5

This is easily the most disturbing, yet oddly beautiful book I have read this year. It is dark and bleak, but portrayed in a way that seems almost natural. The life of feral child, Romochka is frightening and heart-rendering. The way he is treated by his own species, frankly terrifying. It is a compelling and quite intense read.

Romochka is only four years old when his mother abandons him. Alone and hungry, he wanders from home and follows a nursing bitch back to her den. The gentle dog adopts him as one of her puppies and from then Romochka grows up with the dogs. His life is a harsh one - a struggle to survive through the terrible Rusisan winters, and as he grows older, he learns to mingle with two worlds - the human world and the dog. He is a bright, resilient boy and one cannot help but admire what he survives.

Highly recommended.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chris Wooding
Malice series bk 2

Genre: steam/cyberpunk/modern day
Audience: Ages 10+ (although probably more geared at teen)
Rating: 4/5

I thoroughly enjoyed this second half of the "Malice" duology*. Wooding has stepped away from the somewhat Japanese/anime feel of his earlier books and into a league of his own. Well, maybe not quite a league of his own - it's one he shares with China Mieville. A world of dark technology, strange devices, creepy, mysterious villains and a pervading feeling of ultimate doom. Tension and intrigued are maintained throughout this novel, where text is interspersed with graphic novel scenes.

"Malice" starts with a comic book. But not one you can buy off a shelf. No, the "Malice" comic book is often talked about but rarely found. Copies of it are difficult to find, and can lead to more trouble than they are worth. Within the pages of these books is a dark character, known as Tall Jake. There is a ritual to contact him - to call for this mysterious man to come and take you away. And if you follow it - be it in jest or be it with real intent, Jake will listen. And he will come for you. Sometimes he might make you wait a week or a year, but after performing the ritual, you will know that you are living on borrowed time. For the adventures featured in the comic book are not stories. They are the truth, and if you are really (un)lucky, you might earn yourself a starring role...

If you like dark, creepy dystopic worlds where kids rule the roost, then this is the book for you. But be warned - it is not advisable to read it after dark. Unless you want to have really wicked dreams. Or no sleep at all.

And here were my views on:

A nicely creepy, dark cyber-fantasy for young adults. Although it got off to a somewhat shakey start, it quickly picked up the past and dragged me into the dingy, almost steampunk world of Malice. Intermingling with comic book pages is a clever idea, however, some parts proved a little difficult to read (I work better with words than pictures). As it did not really build to much in the way of a climax, it left me feeling faintly unfulfiled, but eager for the next instalment, "Havoc". Intriguing and original ideas.

* It's in two parts cos it was too long for one book. Wooding says so himself. That explains the rather abrupt ending I made note of above.

OOOOOH , there's gonna be a MOVIE! I hope they don't make a trainwreck of it. I bet it will be in 3d...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Immortal Nicholas Flamel

The Necromancer
Michael Scott
The Secrets of the Immortal, Nicholas Flamel, bk 4

Genre: Fantasy/modern day
Audience: Ages 10+
Rating: 4/5

Things are really starting to build up. And like the characters, the reader no longer knows who to trust. The Dark Elders look set to overwelm the world, but John Dee is no longer in their good books. Machiavelli has sided with a famous outlaw and Scathach and Joan of Arc remain trapped in the past. The twins are reunited with the Flamel's - but for how long?

Don't expect a conclusive ending - there's two more books to come - DO expect, lots of adventure, surprises, twists and a few new characters. One of the things I enjoy about this series is googling the name of the new characters - because aside from Sophie and Josh, they're all from history, folklore or such-like. Try it and see, you might be surprised!

The Sorceress

Michael Scott
The Secrets of the Immortal, Nicholas Flamel, bk 3

Genre: Fantasy/modern day
Audience: Ages 10+
Rating: 4/5

I like the way Scott is going with this series. The characters are chosen from history, folklore and legend and the plot is intriguing. The modern-day touch gives it the edge that appeals to the youth of today too. This third one follows two seperate threads of plot - that of Nicholas and the twins as they struggle to come to terms with the changes that are undertaking them (and the world) and Perenelle Flamel, as she is trapped on Alcatraz. The character of Perenelle is further developed. With a good mix of action, adventure and mythological monsters thrown into the mix, this should appeal to fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.

Not much I can say about the plot, without giving too much away (this is the third in the series) but this series follows the adventures of Sophie and Josh Newman - two teenage twins who are working summer jobs in a small American town when everything turns haywire. Suddenly they are thrust into a world where monsters stalk the earth, stone can be animated into life and Dr John Dee, a legend come to life, is after them.

Here's what I wrote about book 1 (I never reviewed book 2, possibly because WeRead, the Facebook app I was using was particualrly buggy at the time):

The Alchemyst
Very readable and quite enjoyable. This adventure/fantasy novel combines mythology and the modern day. Whilst nothing remarkable, it's compelling enough (and open-ending enough) to entice me to read on.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

City of Disappointing Writing

Stravaganza: City of Ships
Mary Hoffman
(bk 5, Stavaganza series)

Genre: Historic/Adventure
Audience: Young Adult (12+)
Rating: 3/5

Maybe I've just become more critical of writing, or maybe the style is genuinely slipping, but I found myself picking many holes in this book. The main character, Isabel, is better developed than Matt in the previous volume, and I think Hoffman has learnt from her previous one. The other Stravagantes are kept in the shadows - almost too much - they are undeveloped to the point of if you hadn't read the previous books, you'd be wondering what all these pointless background characters were doing in the story. Of course, you'd also probably be quite confused about the whole Stavagation thing. Her relationship with Charlie is interesting, but the section concerning 1580s England seemed like a rather odd side-track - it had no real relevance to the plot and seemed to contridict what we'd already learned - that they were all linked to an alternate-Italy. If anything, I think the character of Sky should have been further developed, because the whole romance-side-plot was exceedingly weak.

Anyway, enough nitpicking.

"City of Ships" is a decent enough yarn. It's about a 21st century girl, Isabel, who lives in the shadow of her twin brother, Charlie. She discovers her talisman, which transports her into the world of Talia - a bit like our 18th century Italy. Here she visits the city of Classe, a city under threat by the dreaded "Gate" people (I'm not sure where they're from, they're not linked to the di Chimici family, anyhow). With the help of a dashing pirate , the equally charming Lucien and a cast of everyone-from-the-former books, Isabel must help defend the city against this threat. Oh, and there's lots of di Chimici and Belezza politics in there too, that would be really confusing for those of you that haven't read the earlier books.

In conclusion:
Hoffman should really concentrate on developing the characters she's already got, instead of creating more. The earlier ones - Georgia, Nick and Lucien were interesting, the later ones might be interesting too, but I don't really feel I know them. Also, she has an unfortunate habit of "cutting" away from exciting scenes and jumping to the present day when Isabel is telling her Stavagante friends about what happened next. I did enjoy the effect of being a Stravagante on regular social relationships too.

Things I would like to see in Book Six - City of Swords
* More of Andrea
Yeh, that's about it, really. I liked the dashing pirate/rogue. Even if he was very much a cliche - and a little but Captain Sparrow, he did give the book a bit of flair.

I need to go back to re-read the earlier books and see if the same flaws are apparent there. Meanwhile, here's the short review I wrote for the "City of Secrets", book number four.

City of Secrets
Whilst I enjoyed this as I was reading it, I found myself quite disappointed. It just seemed rather clumsy compared to its predecessors. Whilst Matt was an interesting character, he did not really add anything to the plot - Luciano was really the star of the show. And although it was nice to see the old faces show up, it lead the story to feel quite fragmented and clumsy with many ends left frayed and hanging.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cute animal stories for children

Donna Jo Napoli is well renowned for her delightful children's books, including her own versions of popular fairy tales. Writing across the whole spctrum from age zero to teenages, it is her animal stories that have currently enchanted me.

Both of the two I have read recently have been based on fairy tales, and both have provided me with inspiration for my own animal chapter books. I shall review them both here:

Mogo, the Third Warthog
An adorable story about a little warthog growing up. I loved the portrayal of this ugly, yet endearing pigs and Mogo's accounts of his adventures in the African savannah. Written in first person narrative, this felt a little odd at first - but I found it quite enjoyable. It helped me relate better to the character, and his trials and triumphs. A goodly amount of facts were thrown into the mix, scattered higgledy-piggledy in a way which educates the reader almost without their knowledge. There is a fair amount of action as well, and she does not shy away from darker issues, like death. Whilst something of a retelling of "Three Little Pigs" this is more the story about survival and spirit. Gotta love the Wild Dog being cast as the Big Bad Wolf!

Another delightful story, also told in first person narrative. This one is set in Australia, and contains themes of friendship, family and also spirit. Ugly is the last duckling to hatch in Mama duck's brood, and much larger (and uglier) than his siblings. His behaviour also provides something of a conundrum. Ducks do not trust strangeness, and Ugly and his family quickly find themselves being bullied by the other ducks in Dove Pond. A pacifist by nature, Mama Duck realises that there is no way around it - Ugly must use his brains and survive on his own. But once it is him against the world, Ugly quickly learns that he's not as smart as Mama has lead him to believe. The world is a dangerous place, and a friend is what one needs to get by. He makes many new friends on his quest for his identity - a competitive wallaby; a sweet, loveable wombat; two bawdy geese and a feisty possum, before he finally realises what family and friendship truly are. Enchanting.

These books are both well suited for the 8-10 age group. But because of the inclusion of death in both books - albeit briefly - parents are also encouraged to read them. So they can discuss it with their children. And because they're good ^^

Magic Strikes, Burns, Bleeds and Bites

Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

I have just completed the fourth book in this series, and it is truly growing on me. It took me a while to warm to it - the first book contained a few too many out-of-this-world ideas and concepts for me to immediately grasp. But now I am thoroughly hooked.

Imagine a future where magic strikes - randomly and in force, and technology fails. Imagine a world where industry has crumbled, where skyscrapers lay in fallen ruins and city suburbs are twisted labyrinths into other dimensions. This is the somewhat bleak future that Ilona Andrews (a husband and wife writing team) have conceptualised.

It is a world populated by humans, and creatures far strangers. Foul, anthropied vampires that stalk the streets, piloted by hidden masters. Werebeasts of every imaginable shape and size exist - bears, wolves, rats, hyena (my favourite) and many others besides. Where the Knights of the Order strive to keep order over gods and monsters.

Kate Daniels is not a god, nor is she a monster, at least not in body. She's a human, a human with a dark secret and a personal vendetta against the forces of darkness, particularly those that threaten her nearest and dearest. Through this series of books she undergoes various challenges and faces dire threats. With a healthy dose of bitter humour. And yes, there's a bit of smut too.

It takes a bit of getting used to, and a while to get to know and love this rather bleak world, but once you do, you will become as addicted as I.

Individual summaries of the volumes to date:

1. Magic Bites
A brave start for an intriguing series. This novel takes the popular trend of vampires and werewolves, magic and monsters, to a slightly different level. Andrews world is a complicated one, and it takes a bit of getting used to, but their characterisation is engaging and one cannot help but be drawn in. This novel starts with a violent death - that of Kate's mentor and guardian. And she is next on the list. Can she find the killer before all hell breaks loose?

2. Magic Burns
Something a wee bit different whilst still being in the urban paranormal vein. Vampires are truly foul. Andrews has added a few unique twists into a tired genre and come up with something that is engaging and interesting and makes for a fun read (with a few rather tense moments). After stumbling upon a set of stolen maps and accidentally "adopting" a pre-adolescent girl, Kate finds herself caught up in a war between two gods, both set on the same goal - to manifest, rule and conquer...

3. Magic Strikes

The more I read of this story, the more I like it. I am now getting some awesome mental imagery of the post-magic Atlanta, with ruined skyscrapers and strange mythological monsters roaming the streets. The humour is great, the shapeshifters (especially the Bouda and Curran) awesome and it is plain that Ilona Andrews has developed their world very well. I can't wait to learn more! When Kate's friend Derek is found in a near death and exceedingly bad state, she vows to stop at nothing at tracking down the perpetrators. Her investigations lead her to the Midnight Games - a deadly arena in which opponents fight to the death.

4. Magic Bleeds

Just finished this one and I cannot deny it. I am hooked. Character development is furthered in this instalment, and more of Kate's history revealed. I am starting to really grow fond of Andrea and Raphael, as well. I can't help it - I love the Bouda. There's something about their attitudes. You also learn rather more (perhaps than you wanted to know) of shapeshifter lore and customs. There's an Iron Mary on the loose - a strange, hooded figure that spreads fear, disease and death wherever it steps. And it appears that Kate may be the only one with the resources, the courage and the dedication to track down the plague-bearer before it's too late.

I love Grendel! Every book needs an Attack Poodle.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Around the world, hunting for clues

39 Clues series by assorted authors
This list will be updated as I read the final volumes.

#1 Maze of Bones
Rick Riordan
After their parents die in a tragic house fire, Amy and Dan Cahill are raised by a nasty aunt. But they have visits with their grandmother, Grace to look forward to. Shortly after her death from cancer, Grace's Will is read and a challenge issued to the most competitive (and dangerous) family of all time. Take one million dollars, or join the quest to uncover the 39 Clues and become the Most Powerful Person in the World. Amy and Dan accept the challenge and thus begins an exciting (and potentially deadly) around-the-world scavenger hunt. Some of the major plot points and twists seem a little too obvious to an experienced reader like me, and the plot is ridiculously far-fetched. Overall, however, it's exciting, the characters are interesting (although a bit on the cliched side) and the pace is frantic and highly addictive. Which leaves me eager for more. I can see why the kids are gobbling these up. The series is accompanied by a website, trading cards and the opportunity for the reader to join in the adventures and thus hunt for him or herself. It has a wide appeal.

I listened to volumes 1-6 on audio book, which I highly recommend.

#2 One False Note
Gordon Korman
In this instalment of the "around-the-world" treasure hunt we have crazy boat chases, a cat on a hunger strike, secret headquarters beneath a music store and many other things beside. As our heroes find themselves in Venice. The writer has a love of the word "astern" and graces us with it at least 6 times in as many minutes, and also overuses the cliches, but overall an exciting adventure leaving me hungry for more.

#3 Sword Thief
Peter Lerangis
Another fun, fast paced instalment in this series, this time our heroes find their way to Japan and have a run-in with more of the extended family. The implied delationship/romance seemed contrived but the plot contained a few surprises and a goodly amount of excitement. A fun series for adventurous kids.

#4 Beyond the Grave
Jude Watson
Not bad, another fast-paced plot and a bit of Cahill-reminiscing sweetness. Despite these all being written by different authors, I'm not finding too much difference in writing style. Although some make Dan more obnoxious than others! In this volume our heroes venture into Egypt in an effort to uncover the Cahill family secret.

#5 The Black Circle

Patrick Carman
This one is most noted as being the one when a main character dies. Which one? You'll have to read and see. In this volume, our heroes are starting to doubt their Au Pair, Nelly, and when a clue leads them to the airport and hands them tickets to Russia and fake passports, they leap at the chance to branch out on their own.

#6 In Too Deep
Jude Watson
Not one of the best in the series. In this chapter of their adventures, Dan and Amy make their way to Australia. Here, Watson has some fun with Aussie slang and throws a few cliches around before whisking our heroes off to the opal mines and away to the Philippines. Everything flows a little too smoothly and is a bit too predictable. Still, lots of fun.

#7 The Viper's Nest
Peter Lerangis
This is the first of this series that I have actually physically read (the others on audio book). And even though they're as addictive as caffeine, they're not exactly "well written" or even close. In this instalment the quest for the clues leads Dan and... Amy to Pretoria, South Africa and eventually concludes with them arriving at their Grandmother's house in Madagascar (complete with absolutely no description of this amazing country, which left me feeling very let down) where finally you learn their family identity. Those of you that hadn't had it all figured out from book 1 that is. Predictable, cheesy and very, very addictive.

#8 The Emperor's Code
Gordon Kormon
Gordon strikes me as one of the stronger writers in this series. I certainly enjoyed this instalment, which takes our Cahill heroes first to China, then divides the two up for the first time in the series. Fast paced and intriguing, it relies a lot on coincidence, but that's too be expected. Certainly some tense moments here, and a hidden message in the text too (although not well hidden) which makes for some added fun. Makes you wonder where the series is going and who the Madrigals REALLY are...

#9 Storn Warning
Linda Sue Park
I believe this is the best instalment in this series so far. The thrills and surprises never stop (some of those us more experienced readers guessed back in book 2 are finally revealed) and the tension builds well. There is some heartbreak in here as well, and Linda Sue Park just proves to be a strong writer with a good grasp on the characters. Roll on book #10 and the childrens' biggest challenge yet!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Angels on Earth

Alexandra Adornetto

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Romance
Audience: Young Adult (12+)
Rating: 3/5

Just another instalment in the current trend of Paranormal Romance novels aimed at teenage girls, you ask yourself? Well, Halo might fit that description quite well, but it does at least contain some originality. For one thing, it's the female narrator that is the otherworldly being - in this case an angel. She has been sent to a small, sleepy town along with her "siblings", the Archangel Gabriel and a seraphim, Ivy. Their mission? To inspire general goodness in the community and do away with the creeping shadows of evil that are growing in the small town. And it gets off to a good start. Our heroine, Bethany, is a young angel, being only 17 years old. She is naive and innocent and has learned about human-kind from television and literature. Being flung into modern society - and school - makes for quite an eye-opening experience. Even eating is something new to her. The first section of this book is charming, and does make you take another look at the world we're so used to. Then she falls in love. Xavier is a lovely young man and the relationship is likewise sweet and innocent with only a slight spattering of angst. It's only when the "evil" character is introduced that the plot begins to lose some of its sparkle. The villain is cliched, and the plot holds no real surprises - although it does build to a nice bit of tension. It would be nice to have some sort of red herring in here, but everything is pretty much straightforward from beginning to end, leaving the reader feeling slightly disatisfied. Also, as it is part of a series, the major plot point - can an angel and a human really have a life together - is left hanging for further instalments.
Overall, this book is sweet and somewhat innocent (although there is some mention of sex) and quite a refreshing addition to this tired but addictive genre. However, it could be so much stronger. But one thing that should be noted - despite the Christian elements to the plot, it is not at all preachy. For this she should be commended.

Adornetto is a young Australian author, who published her first book at age 13. As she is only now 19, and this is her first dabbling at teen fiction, I can see she has is plenty of promise to mature into a very fine novelist. She certainly seems to have good morals, if her book is anything to go by.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Top five reads of 2010

Every Year I compile a list of the five books I read that year that left an impression. This can be because they were really good, really original, or so god-awful terrible that I could not help but love them. Luckily this year, there were none of the latter!

So, here's my list - please note that not all (or perhaps even any) of these books were actually RELEASED in 2010).


The Passage
Justin Cronin

Creepy, dark, engrossing. This novel darkened my thoughts and haunted my dreams. Well written, with good characterisation, it could be described as "The Strain" meets "The Stand" and is a original and interesting post-apocalyptic thriller with a different take on vampires. I wouldn't even really consider them vampires, personally. With more than a few surprises in store, this book took me on a journey I did not quite expect. It will be interesting to see where it continues to lead me.


Florence and Giles
John Harding

Exceptionally clever, written in the Narrator's own, poetic tongue of her semi-invented language. This is one of the stories when the intentions of the Narrator - in this case, 12 year old Florence, might not be quite as clear as her take on things makes... out. Lots of clever little plot touches, and delightful seasonings that allow your mind to wander beyond what our "heroine" sees and believes, and what reality actually holds. In this manner, it reminds me rather of Matt Haig. Very clever, quite chilling, and with a delightful sting in the tail, Harding does not beat you over the head with the plot twists, but allows you to come to your own conclusions. Excellent writing and highly recommended.


Gone (Gone #1)
Michael Grant

"Under the Dome" for teenagers - this is the story of a small American town who one day suffer from a strange problem - all of the people over 15 disappear - POOF, just like that. So, what happens to the survivors? How can a bunch of kids survive on their own? Suddenly they're forced to grow up fast. It's good guys vs the bad guys, with some grey bits in between, mutant animals, super powers and all in all, an engrossing and intriguing read. Huighly enjoyable, even if the writing style started off a wee bit shaky.


Mockingjay (Hunger Games #)
Suzanne Collins

Wow. What a book and what a conclusion. Engrossing, frightening and beautiful all at once, this is most certainly not for the young and sensitive. One of the best Young Adult series I have read in a long while draws to its bittersweet close and leaves me still feeling hungry for me. Absolutely marvellous and highly recommended.


Going Bovine
Libba Bray

Refreshingly original and bordering on the surreal, this book is a road trip with a difference. It's completely insane! When he is diagnosed with the human equivalent of Mad Cow Disease, Cameron has little to hope for except a quick and painless death. ...Until a punk angel shows up and offers him a solution. There is one person who has the cure - the mysterious Doctor X. The only problem is, nobody knows where he is, and his parellel-dimension jumping habits have allowed dark energy to flow into our world, Soon they will destroy it. Only Cameron can save it - with the help of a death-obsessed dwarf and a lawn gnome who claims to be a Viking god. Cameron's quest leads him a series of intriguing - and increasingly demented, challenges - including a church of happiness, a reality tv show, New Orleans, and many other things besides. This book is sheer brilliance - once you get past the somewhat immature language (first person, present tense narrative - so the language is most definitely in character).


These reviews are very short and succinct on account of being cross-posted from my WeRead account. I am now abandoning my WeRead account and will be posting all reviews here. This is NOT because WeRead have shifted servers to India but because they have lost all the reviews I have written there (over 500 books!) and my emails to them have bounced. I managed to salvage most of my 2010 reviews (by ploughing through my Facebook Profile page for several hours and the powers of cut-n-paste), but shall not trouble you by cross-posting them all here, except when I review a follow-up.

Return of Bartimaeus

Ring of Solomon
Jonathan Stroud

Genre: Historic Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult (10+)
Rating: 4/5

Bartimaeus is back! This is the fourth novel featuring the willful, sarcastic Djinni and he is in fine form indeed. Set before the Bartimaeus Trilogy ("Amulet of Samarkand" etc) this tale focuses on King Solomon. A powerful Egyptian king who keeps his people in check by possessing a very strong spirit, trapped in a ring. Bartimaeus is at his typically irreverent best, savaging his master with his cutting wit and sharp tongue. This does not lead him to make many friends, and indeed leads to him falling into the grasp of an assasssin, a young woman sent to kill the king. Charged with an utterly hopeless mission, with sure death as its goal, Bartimaeus takes it all in his (grudging and sarcastic) stride and gives us a most entertaining tale indeed.

If you like this, I would urge you to also check out:
The Bartimaeus Trilogy
Amulet of Samarkand
The Golem's Eye
Ptolemy's Gate