May 24

Fenrir by MD Lachlan

9780575089648Oops. This one is getting reviewed before the first book in the series. And I have read it months before it is even released. But once you read the review of Wolfsangel you will know why I literally picked this one up as I put the other one down. So all I can say is watch out for this come August.

Book one introduced us to three Viking children. Two were twin boys and the third was the girl they both loved. But far more than a simple romance, magic got involved, the gods took sides and a monster was born.

The second book in the series still sticks with the Vikings, hundreds of years later when they are attacking the city of Paris. Our three troubled souls are reincarnated, one as a monk, one a lady of wealth and power, and the third a mystic living in the wild. Throughout this book they meet, interact, and separate. Gradually the monster is revealed to all.

I found the first book riveting. Literally, I couldn’t put it down. However, this second book in the series took much longer to engage. That’s probably why it took so long for me to finish it. Parts were literally heavy going. It wasn’t until I actually worked out who was which reincarnated soul and the monster was revealed that it actually caught my interest.

However, that isn’t necessarily a criticism. The first book in the series was a simple historical adventure story. This one made me think. And once Christianity appears, the Norse gods are far more discrete. As Odin and Loki disguise their weapons under the cloak of respectability the story becomes far more complex. That makes it slower reading, but still fascinating.

Spoiler alert: The story is not over. The three never get to meet for the final battle. So where on earth, or more accurately, in time is Lachlan going to set the next in the series?

May 24

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard

9781595142924I can’t remember the last time I didn’t finish at least a book each week. And for the past two weeks I haven’t finished anything!! So for good measure, I finished two yesterday.

Any reader can be forgiven for rejecting this book by its cover. It is so overwhelmingly pink! Absolutely revolting. Is it any wonder that I left it to read until the train trip to the meeting where I had to review it? But once inside, it was a remarkable book.

Imagine if your birthday wishes came true. Literally. Not so bad, but what if your birthday wish as a 7 year-old came true for your 16th birthday. Yes that means that the darling little pony you wanted suddenly appears. Or the lifetime supply of gumballs magically appears in your room. Kayla is the lucky girl who gets all her wishes granted, once each day for two weeks. The real worry is that last year she wished her BFF’s boyfriend would kiss her.

This could easily have been a silly book, not funny, just silly. However, Hubbard takes the opportunity to make this a book about growing up – how our wants, needs and ideas change. She is not beyond poking fun at her protagonist, but Kayla needs it to help her sort out what is really important in her life.

I will admit it was embarrassing to be reading such a pink book in public. And the review committee rejected it purely on the colour of the cover. A few years ago, pink was in, but now this cover seems very childish. I suspect a tween reader will miss the whole point of the novel, really written for the 12-15 age group.

I liked it, but I really should have looked for an ebook edition.

May 5

Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool by Odo Hirsch

resized_9781741757163_224_297_FitSquareAnother book I read ages ago. Over Christmas actually, and it was shortlisted for the CBCA Younger Readers last year. Generally I try to get all the shortlisted books read before August, but last year – well – lots of stuff got in the way.

As with many of Hirsch’s books, this one is pure childhood fantasy. The Bell family is cash poor and asset wealthy and they are existing via a very complicated barter system. But every generation the family must produce a give for the town. In the past this gift has been magnificent, a bell tower, statues, or some other landmark. This year there is literally no money so the gift is going to be very, very different. When Darius, the young boy, find a cave and beautiful pool on the estate, he thinks he has found the answer to the problem of the gift. But as always, life doesn’t always go to plan.

This is a gentle, whimsical book. No danger, no thrills, just people being people trying to manage a difficult life. Positivity and generosity is the theme and virtually everybody who appears possesses these qualities in vast amounts. Problems arise, but then are solved with just a little help from friends.

It must be nice to live in Hirsch’s world.

May 5

Brimstone by Preston and Child

childprestonbrimstone-197x300If you hadn’t guessed, I love my eReader. In fact I love both of them. When reading from my eReader though, I have a tendency to finish one book and start the next without actually sitting down to write the review. Then times like these I try to clear the backlog.

Regular readers of this page will know that I am a fan of scifi/supernatural. I admit to being a fan of the X-files and the Preston-Child books are the closest thing to X-files stories that I have found. I have tried to find their whole backlist in eBook form, but so far many of the early novels are missing.

Enough with the complaints, let’s get to this book. Brimstone is actually the first book in a trilogy from these authors. The story opens with the death of a man, apparently burned by the Devil incarnate, complete with cloven hoofprint. Usually Pendergast is very comfortable with this scenario, but this time is doesn’t seem so sure. Through painstaking attention to detail he discovers that there is a very natural explanation for what is happening. The trail leads him to Italy and a missing violin. Confused? You won’t be once you read this.

This is very much a stand-alone book. There are allusions to sinister events afoot, but they are just the barest hint designed to encourage the reader to seek out Dance of the Dead to find out what happens. clever marketing if you ask me.

Yes, I greatly enjoyed reading this. It was something read for fun, but then I believe that reading should be fun. That is why I am willing to read such a variety of stuff, but keep coming back to my favourites.

May 4

Die for Me by Amy Plum

9781907411021I have been reviewing books for Hachette for years now and only very rarely do I get a copy of the book pre-publication. Sometimes I get uncorrected proof copies, but usually they don’t arrive until after the publication date. I unpacked this weeks ago, and set it aside until closer to the publication date. Then the Twitter feeds started showing great enthusiasm for this new author to the YA market.

Georgia seems surrounded by death. Her parents have recently been killed and she and her older sister move to Paris to live with her grandparents. The loss of her home, friends and family is almost too much to bear and she escapes into a world of books where life is a lot more secure. When her grandmother encourages, even pushes her to leave the house, Georgia starts taking her reading to a cafe. Gradually she begins mixing with humanity again (good idea Gran) and begins to create a new life for herself. Part of this new life includes Vincent, an absolutely gorgeous 19 year old French boy who somehow keeps appearing wherever she goes. Whenever she is with Vincent, suddenly life feels a lot more safe and secure.

But Vincent has his secrets, and Georgia is unwilling to let him keep them. She is after a relationship based on honesty. Then again some secrets are better kept.

This is a new variation on the supernatural romance theme that has been popular with teen girls for so many years. No this isn’t another vampire romance, in spite of the hints in the blurb. And you would think by now that I would be heartily sick of the whole genre. I swear I have read dozens of them. However, Plum put a fresh twist to the story. This is a book far more about doing things for others rather than serving oneself.

Plum has also written an engaging story. I read it in virtually one sitting. The book may be 300+ pages, but the time seemed to fly. I love the whole idea and I most certainly hope that Plum returns to the saga of Georgia and Vincent soon.

May 4

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

leviathan_frontcover_large_8bmm6tev5zhgzalThis has been on my ‘must read’ list forever. I have carried it home, sat it by the bed, wished I had time, and then taken it back so some student could read it. Finally, as an example of my new lifestyle, I actually had time to read it. And it was definitely worth the wait.

This book opens a series of historical fantasy from Westerfeld with a strong feel of steampunk. Set in an alternative reality around the opening shots of WWI, this version focuses on one girl working in the English air services and a boy who just happens to be the son of Archduke Ferdinand whose assassination triggered the events that started the war. In this reality the German alliance has focussed it’s technology development on machines and the English alliance through the influence of Darwin, has developed genetic engineering to an extreme art. The two kids who are caught on either side of the conflict have been taught to distrust the technology of the other side, so when they meet in Switzerland inevitably misunderstandings happen.

I liked the whole focus on the technologies of the various nations. I liked the fantastic machines and even more fantastic animals that made the world work. The war fought this way would have been very different from the one that our world actually endured, but somehow I suspect that the loss of life and other disasters would have been just as devastating as they really were.

I have listed this book for older readers simply because I think that a general knowledge of world history is going to be helpful in understanding the subtleties of the plot. Younger readers would be able to read and understand the adventure, but miss out on half the story, and to my mind, the best half.

There is a sequel, and I am determined to read it before too long.