Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Private Oz by James Patterson and Michael White

Private Oz is one of the latest installments in the dynamic and multinational Private series from James Patterson and co-authors.  Set in Australia (hence the Oz part of the title), this is the first book that has been set relatively close to home for New Zealand readers, a little icing on the cake for an already interesting and addictive series.

The main storyline is high impact, and keeps up the tension throughout the novel, and while some of the subplots are a little distracting at times, it does make for a well rounded read and a firm introduction to the team working at Private - from the forensic expert through to the receptionist.  The cast are interesting and well developed, bringing their own skills and history to the cases they are working on - which makes for a better read than some of the other books in the series.  At times the stories seem a little jumbled, like they tried to fit too much into the book, but it evens out across the novel and comes to a rather satisfying conclusion.

There is one little bug bear however - this book was set in Australia, and the edition I read was published in Australia so it would have been nice if the measurements had been in "Australian".  At this end of the world we ....

Use kilograms as a measurement of weight (not pounds)
Use degrees Celsius as a temperament measurement (not degrees Fahrenheit)
Use kilometres an hour as a speed measurement (not miles per hour)
And we enter a building on the ground floor (not the first floor)

Apart from these little bug bears this was a thoroughly good read devoured in an afternoon.  James Patterson is a very (very) active author who produces copious amounts of books each year, usually with co-authors, but what a lot of people don't know is that he is also involved with literacy programmes and writes books for teenagers and children to encourage them to develop a love of reading from a young age.  A great author who will hopefully be writing for many years to come.

If you enjoyed Private Oz you may also enjoy the rest of the series and pretty much anything else by James Patterson including: Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, Kill me if you can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp, and Step on a crack by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge.

~ Reviewed by Elspeth Sweetman

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Attolia books by Megan Whalen Turner

A couple of years ago, there was an online poll on which literary character you'd dump your life for and run away with... Ok, there were a few Darcy fans, some Gilbert Blythe...

But, there was a groundswell of support for Eugenides, star of the Attolia books by Megan Whalen Turner, beginning with the eponymous The Thief.

I'll be upfront here - I'm one of them. Well, actually, I am deeply in literary-love with Eugenides, but will also admit he would be an utter pain to live with!

It's so difficult to say why I love this series - and Eugenides - without giving the plot away.

What I can say is, each book has its own character. As you read through the series (in chronological order: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, The Conspiracy of Kings), the story is shown through different eyes.

Book three, in particular, is interesting in this regard. We, his loyal and loving fans, know what Eugenides is like... but the book's mouthpiece, doesn't. And, you spend a fair amount of the book just waiting for the real Eugenides to show up.

There is action, romance, politics, religion, intrigue... Oh, these books have everything!

A hint of the type of man Eugenides is... when his Gods talk to him, they say things like 'stop whining' and 'go to bed'.

And, I am not the only fan who has struggled to share how ABSO-BLOOMING-LUTELY marvellous these books are, without sharing spoilers. Check out this Booksmugglers review.

Check out the book trailer and see if this book sounds like you...

To recommend books like this is very nearly impossible. There's the fantasy and world-building that comes with great fantasy. And court-politics. And romance. And... just so many things! But, it's the characters that make this one.

So - giving it my best shot! Crown duel and Court duel by Sherwood Smith. Maria V. Snyder: Poison study, Magic study, Fire study and the related series Storm glass, Sea glass and Spy glass. The Elantra series by Michelle Sagara.

~ Reviewed by Aud Selene.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Everything I know about love I learned from romance novels by Sarah Wendell

An odd read from me. Well, sort of...

I do read umpteen-dozen romance novels, however, I am not a fan of romance in my own life.

That said - reading this book, helped me realise that part of my decision to be romance/relationship-free is actually as a result of reading romance novels.

"Romance novels taught me it is never OK to let a man take advantage of you" quote from Caroline, A Reader.

For me, this is true - but I can translate it wider: value yourself and don't stay in a crap relationship.

But - enough about me! Onto the book...

If you've ever wondered about your own personal addiction to romance novels, this book will help explain it.

If you've ever wondered about someone else's addiction to romance novels, this book will help explain it.

Gathered together from interviews with romance novel authors and readers, this is a wonderful exploration of one of the most popular genres in fiction - ever.

And, no, romance novel readers do not - on the whole - live expecting Romancelandia values and occurences to happen in real life. So, we are not expecting a disguised duke to be hanging around as a Texan cowboy.

The author, Sarah Wendell, is one of the Smart Bitches - from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog - one of the best places EVER for romance readers.

By turns funny and heart-breaking, this is a wonderful read. It goes to prove that romance novel readers are the first to laugh at themselves - and their preferred genre. But, we're also prone to defensiveness. Seriously, who wouldn't be when your very intellect and ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality is questioned by almost everyone, based on the type of book you read... Oh yes, carry around a romance novel, and people feel free to comment on your reading choice. But, no one says things like 'oh, Kafka. How try-hard intellectual of you'...

Other interesting books about life lessons learned from pop culture, of one sort or another are: Everything I need to know I learned from  a children's book; Everything I needed to know about being a girl I learned from Judy Blume; All I really need to know I learned from watching Star Trek.

Don't forgot to check out Sarah's other great book about romance novels: Beyond heaving bosoms...

~ Reviewed by Aud Selene.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Origin by Jessica Khoury

When you read as many books as I do in a year, it can be very difficult to find a book that is truly unique, a book that truly amazes you by speaking with a different voice, a book that you can't wait to recommend to someone else - a book like Origin. 

Pia is the end result of a science experiment that has been running in the rainforest for decades, an experiment that has created the perfect human - Pia.  But Pia is one of a kind, the result of the Immortis project, a project that she will lead one day as the scientists in Little Cam work towards the goal of a race of immortal beings just like Pia. 

Content with her life at Little Cam, Pia seldom thinks about the world outside the wires, she is too busy learning the science she needs to run the Immortis project from her Aunts and Uncles.  She has lived her life in a cage, and she doesn't even know it - until the night she turns 17 and finds a hole in the fence around the compound.  The rainforest is even more amazing than she imagined, and it is not as empty as she thought - something she finds out when she runs into Eio and finds out that there is a village of "natives" not far from the compound.  Suddenly the world is more exciting and engaging, but it is also full of secrets that Pia may wish she had never discovered.

Check out the book trailer for this debut novel that is impossible to put down. 

If you enjoyed Origin you may also enjoy Variant by Robison Wells, Article 5 by Kristen Simmons, Enclave by Ann Aguirre, The Hunt by Andrew Fakuda, Enchanted by Alethea Knotis, and The Selection by Kiera Cass.

~ Reviewed by Elspeth Sweetman

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dark currents by Jacqueline Carey

Dark currents by Jacqueline Carey. Welcome to Pemkowet where Hel, Norse goddess, oversees the eldritch races in town.
Meet Daisy Johanssen, Hel's liason with the mortal authorities. And Hel's enforcer.
She's also hell-spawn, well, half. And, yes, in this case the Judeo-Christian meaning of Hell... ie demon.

Usually things are pretty quiet for Daisy. Her part-time job as filing clerk in the police department keeps her vaguely occupied. And handy when the Chief needs her attendance. She has family and relationship issues to deal with, paying the rent, feeding the cat (when he deigns to turn up).
Then, a mortal frat boy is found dead. Under suspicious circumstances.
Add in some interesting males - some of whom are also interested in Daisy (there's also the one Daisy is interested in) - and you have an, on the face of it, reasonably standard urban fantasy.

However, Carey's skill and ability as an author makes this one of the best urban fantasies around.
Her world-building is sound and more varied than many urban fantasies / paranormal romances. Yes, there are vampires. Yes, there are werewolves. But there are also ogres, trolls, mermaids, fairies, ghouls... and a few other creatures you discover along the way.
The world is also populated by characters. There's Daisy, herself, who is a pretty-normal young woman. Except for a few things. One of them is trying not to lose her temper. If she gives in to her demon-half, she could bring about the end of the world. Armageddon - final battle and all that.

Anyway - the suspicious death of the frat boy is solved (surely that's not a spoiler). Daisy's relationships are up-in-the-air. And, there's more to come. (You'd hope so, what with the whole Agent of Hel, book 1 promise). Don't believe me? Check out the reviews on goodreads.

Bring it on.

Other urban fantasies that are a cut above include Halfway to the grave by Jeaniene Frost; Cry wolf by Patricia Briggs; Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway; Sunshine by Robin McKinleyUrban shaman by C.E. Murphy; Dragon bound by Thea Harrison.

~ Reviewed by Aud Selene.