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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Review: The Colossus Rises

Author: Peter Lerangis

Release date: 6th June 2013
Target audience: 9+
Genre: Fantasy adventure
UK Publisher: HarperCollins


The Colossus Rises is the first novel in the Seven Wonders series by Peter Lerangis. It’s a quest story – full of near-death experiences, unimaginable monsters and ancient legends.

Jack McKinley’s life changes when he passes out at school. He’s taken to hospital and when he wakes up he’s been kidnapped by the Karai Institute. Professor Bhegad – leader of the Institute – reveals that Jack is one of the Select – someone who has a G7W gene. The trouble with the gene is that it’s a double edged sword. On the one hand it can turn you into a superhuman. On the other it’s a ticking time bomb and it will kill you. Jack is charged with the quest to save to himself and his Select friends.

This story is full of great dialogue, snarky one-liners and has a very witty hero. The universal story of a reluctant hero who discovers his (not easy to achieve) destiny always appeals to our inner desire to be special and thus this is a really enjoyable book to read.

However, I did feel that the overall characterisation was weak. The main character was well crafted but his friends and enemies were all very shallow. Although they had great dialogue with their own way of speaking, but I just didn’t find them convincing at times. They didn’t seem to go any deeper than what they said. They needed to feel more physical and alive.

Despite that shortcoming, the book is a good read. The chapter length was perfect for the age group – not too long and not too short. The action is well plotted and is full of drama which will keep younger readers interested.

If you love Percy Jackson, then this is a must-read for you. It has all the ingredients that you enjoy – humour, action and a hero on a quest! The Colossus Rises is the beginning of an epic fantasy adventure.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Review: Dangerous Girls

Author: Abigail Haas

Release date: 18th July 2013
Genre: Thriller
Target audience: 14+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1471119149

Dangerous Girls is a contemporary thriller set on the island of Aruba. It’s the worst case scenario for a teen Summer Break. It a taut and sinister read.

A day after finishing this book, I’m still not quite sure what I think about it. Normally how I feel about a book is crystal clear. So this is rather odd. I guess I just feel indifferent. It’s a book that lacks passion and has a cold feeling to it. Maybe that’s why I’m left a little bit unsure.

This is the story of a group of friends who go on a wild partying holiday on an island. Away from the safety and security at home, they let go – they drink, they do drugs and they are very intimate with each other and the locals. (I’m making it sound more passionate than it is). Anna is the main character and she tells us most of the story. She takes us back to when she first met Elise at the posh private school she transferred to mid-semester. They didn’t get off to the best of starts. Elise is a powerhouse of a girl, a lover of the wild and dramatic, flighty and unruly. But they do become friends. They best of friends, inseparable. Anna and Elise soon have a whole circle of friends. And thus the group end up in Aruba. Only by day three of the holiday, Elise is found dead in her bedroom in the villa. She’s been murdered.

The investigation gets underway and Anna becomes the main suspect. The police ignore the groups’ report of two local men who Elise manipulated. Anna is arrested and her life begins to fall apart.

The novel is told in a different format. Its part narrative from Anna – describing her situation now or events in their past – but it is also told through police interviews, media interviews, newspaper reports and so on. This format was interesting but it did make it difficult to feel as if you were living the story. Every time there was a change of narrative device I felt like I was taken out of the story. I do prefer linear narratives. The killer isn’t revealed until the very last pages. I did however see where the story was going and so it wasn’t a surprise.

I guess I thought this book would blow me away and it didn’t. I was intrigued but not hooked, interested and yet not desperate to find out whodunit. It seems unfair to call this book lacklustre but that’s my response. It is well written and well plotted but it doesn’t didn’t set my pulse racing. Dangerous Girls was definitely not in my comfort zone. Thriller readers may enjoy it much more.

Source: Review copy from the publisher. Thank you.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Introducing Maggie Silver: Spy Society Blog Tour

Today is the launch of the Spy Society Blog Tour! This is such a super fun, enjoyable read. So I'm thrilled to have the charming Robin Benway here at The Bookette to introduce Maggie Silver.

Welcome Robin!

Hello hello! Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today!

Photo Credit: Lovato Images
I first got the idea for Maggie Silver back when I locked myself out of my apartment building's storage unit. (Uh, oops.) I couldn't remember the combination for the lock, so I went on Google and learned how to crack it. Twenty minutes later, I managed to break into my own storage unit, which made me realize two things: 1) never use combination locks again!, and 2) it would be really fun to write about a secret spy society and its best safecracker.

Maggie is sixteen. She's traveled all over the world with her mom, an excellent computer hacker, and dad, a gifted linguist. (He can say "You're grounded!" in twelve different languages.) Maggie's special skill is breaking into safes and cracking locks, and she knows she's one of the best in the business. Too bad no one can know what she does, though. She and her parents work for an organization called the Collective, a super-secret underground group that robs from the rich and gives to the poor. As Maggie puts it, "we do the wrong things for the right reasons."

But when Maggie is given her first major assignment, things get a little less perfect. She's assigned to befriend the son of a wealthy NYC magazine publisher because the magazine is about to run a series of articles exposing the Collective. If Maggie can get to know the son (an obnoxiously-named Jesse Oliver), she can gain access to the magazine's files and steal them before the story goes to press.

There's just one problem: Maggie has never been to high school before. She's seen it on TV, though. How difficult could it be?

Answer: Very, very difficult.

She hasn't planned on homework, first of all. Or making her first best friend, a firecracker of a human being named Roux that's recently been ousted from her mean girl perch at school. Maggie also hadn't planned on Jesse Oliver being cute. And nice. and funny. And, it turns out, not obnoxious at all. In fact, she thinks she kind of likes him. 

Uh oh.

With the help of her friend Angelo, an older British gentleman who guides Maggie through the finer points of safecracking and spying, Maggie learns that people aren't safes, that sometimes they can't be cracked. But with her family's safety at risk, she has to make a choice: confess to her new friends who she really is and risk losing Jesse's trust, or continue to live underground and risk losing him forever.

Thank you Robin! As a School Librarian, I see everyday just how difficult high school can be. But you can't beat the friendships. Shame they don't teach "Getting one over on the Bad Guys 101" though.

Spy Society is out in the UK on 18th July. 

You can follow Robin on Twitter @robinbenway - she loves to tweet pictures of her dog!

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Bookette's Guide To... Popular Books this Term

It's that time again. The end of term. The end of the school year. Whoop! So before I spend the next seven weeks relaxing, here are the fiction books that topped the charts in my school library this term:

#1 being the most popular book in my school library since April 2013

Boys: 8 – 12
  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney
  2. Stitch Head (the whole series) by Guy Bass
  3. Captain Underpants (the whole series) by Dav Pilkey
  4. The Curse of Kings by Alex Barclay
  5. Young Bond (the whole series) by Charlie Higson
  6. Monster Mayhem by Guy Bass
  7. The Vengeance of Vinister Vile by Guy Bass
  8. Big Nate (the whole series) by Lincoln Peirce
  9. Tom Gates (the whole series) by Liz Pichon
  10. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Girls: 8 – 12
  1. Queenie by Jacqueline Wilson
  2. The Witch of Turlingham Academy by Ellie Boswell
  3. Bad Girls by Jacqueline Wilson
  4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (the whole series) by Jeff Kinney
  5. Dork Diaries (the whole series) by Renee Russell
  6. Tom Gates (the whole series) by Liz Pichon
  7. Gangtsa Granny by David Walliams
  8. Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders
  9. The Worst Thing About My Sister by Jacqueline Wilson
  10. The Lady Grace Mysteries (the whole series) by Grace Cavendish
I'm so pleased to see Guy Bass feature in the boys' reading choices. We had a fantastic author performance from him in February and it has had a direct impact on the boys. Wonderful. 

And look at The Hobbit - shows how influential movies can be. 

It's nice to see some of the girls enjoying fantasy novels again too.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Review: Spy Society

Author: Robin Benway

Release date: UK Paperback 18th July
Genre: Spy novel
Target audience: 11+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 9781471116742


Spy Society is a super fun read. It’s a story of teenage espionage and the trials and tribulations of being a teenager.

Maggie is an ace safe-cracker. Her parents are spies – her mum is a computer hacker, her dad is a statistician. They all work for a secret organisation called the Collective. They use illegal methods to redress wrong-doing by ruthless criminals. Maggie has spent her life moving from country to country to and never being noticed. Blending in with the crowd and only having imaginary friends is all she’s ever known.
But now she is assigned her first solo mission. She is to infiltrate a New York private school and make friends with the son of a powerful magazine owner. Going undercover is a lot more complicated than Maggie ever expected. The boy is so cute. Her fake friend is really in need of a real friend. And navigating the social landscape is nothing like cracking a safe.

Maggie finds herself being pulled in two directions. She actually enjoys being a normal teenager who gets to kiss a cute boy. But the threat to the Collective and her family means she must complete her mission.
It makes for full on fun, feisty reading. Maggie is a great main character – she’s a cheeky, kind kooky and her voice has just the right amount of teen. Her fake best friend is outrageous in a good way which adds brilliant humour to the book.

This would make such a great movie. It’s that kind of book. Sort of like The Princess Diaries – it really reminded me of that but minus the princesses and add the spies. It’s the same dilemma really – deciding if you are ready to enter the family business and the huge responsibility that comes with it.

Charming, adorably cheeky and full of action – this is a feel good read. Spy Society is joyous entertainment.

Recommended for fans of:

Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Playlist: Infinite Sky Blog Tour

Today I'm delighted to be hosting the next stop on the Infinite Sky Blog Tour.

Without further ado, over to CJ Flood...


I usually write in silence, and so I didn’t have a playlist for Infinite Sky, so this is a work-in-progress. A few songs are mentioned in the book, and so they were my starting point. As soon as I started thinking about a playlist for the book, I was flooded with ideas. Infinite Sky is a summery, intense book, about first love and growing up. It is about loss and family and friendship. This is the playlist I’ve come up with so far.

Band of Gold, Freda Payne – this is a Motown heartbreaker, about having nothing left to show for your wedding except your wedding ring. “Since you’ve been gone all that’s left is a band of gold, all that’s left is the dreams I hold…” I can imagine Iris’s absent mother, Anna, and her father, Thomas, feeling achy whenever they hear this song.

You don’t own me, Lesley Gore – an emotional song that Iris and Anna relate to. “Oh, I don't tell you what to say, I don't tell you what to do, So just let me be myself, That's all I ask of you. I'm young and I love to be young. I'm free and I love to be free, To live my life the way I want, To say and do whatever I please...”

Kiss Me, Sixpence None The Richer – a sweet, nostalgic song that somehow manages to get all of the purity and hope of first love and endless summer into a single track. Perfect for smitten teenagers. “Kiss me out of the bearded barley, Nightly, beside the green, green grass...”

Stand By Me, Ben E King – Thomas listens to this after his wife leaves. It hurts him to listen to if, after she has left him to go travelling around Tunisia in a sky blue Transit van. They used to dance to it together in happier times.

Joyriders, Pulp – this is a song that reminds me of Punky, Dean and Leanne, the rebellious teenagers that Iris’s brother, Sam, gets caught up with. “We don't look for trouble, but if it comes we don't run. Looking out for trouble, is what we call fun.”

Killing In The Name, Rage Against The Machine – a classic angry song, excellent for playing when you’re feeling shouty. This is what Sam often played after he’d slammed his bedroom door. (Beware, it’s sweary too. Sincere apologies.)

I Want to Break Free, Queen – this is on the radio towards the end of the novel, and is a moment of lightness between Iris and her dad, before everything kicks off. If Anna heard this on her travels, I think she would turn it up and sing along real loud. Then maybe feel a bit guilty and reflective afterwards.

Please, please, please, let me get what I want, The Smiths – this song reminds me of Punky and Dean, who have had hard lives. “Haven’t had a dream in a long time. See, the life I’ve had, can make a good man bad.” I wish I’d been able to explore their stories a bit more. I was close to a lot of boys like them in my teens. My second novel does this a little, though Punky and Dean have evolved into a new character called Beast.

I’ll Stand By You, The Pretenders – This song is meaningful to Iris in a very bittersweet way. For the rest of her life it makes her think of her brother and Trick.
Sweets, Yeah Yeah Yeahs – there’s an anger and a longing in this song that Iris would respond to. Also, I just really like Karen O.

Ella Fitzgerald, My Happiness – a beautiful song about missing someone, “Evening shadows make me blue when each weary day is through, how I long to be with you…”

Eric Clapton, Tears in Heaven – this is the song played at the funeral of the teenage boy who dies in Infinite Sky. It is a really sad song, and used to make me cry when I was a teenager. (Okay, it still does). It’s pretty soppy, I suppose, but I’m coming to terms with the fact that I am a pretty soppy person. “Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven? Would it be the same, if I saw you in heaven?” (Weep.)

What do you think of my playlist? Does it make you want to read Infinite Sky? Or perhaps you have already read it? If so, do you have any suggestions? I would love to hear from you, and will consider adding any songs you think a good fit.

Thanks for sharing your playlist with us CJ. Now I'm not really one for music. Would you believe me if I told you that I only had 18 songs downloaded on my iPod? It's true. I really need more because I'm getting bored of them in the gym. Speaking of the gym, I happened to notice that a group of travellers have arrived on the public green across the road. As I was on the treadmill, I was watching closely to see how the police reacted to them. It was all very calm. But I only paid attention because I'd read Infinite Sky. It made me stop and take notice and observe rather than judge. What a great book! I wish I could offer comments on the playlist. A song that always makes me think of summer is Fields of Gold. (No idea if that's even the title or who the artist is!)

INFINITE SKY is out in paperback now. 
You can follow CJ Flood on Twitter @cjflood_author.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Review: Infinite Sky

Author: C J Flood

Release date: UK Paperback 4th July 2013/ Hardback February 2013
Genre: Contemporary / Realism
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 9780857078032


Infinite Sky is a beautifully written story of first love and loss. It’s a bittersweet read which squeezes the heart and fills you with a longing for something that’s just out of reach.

From the very first page, the most striking thing about this book is the quality of the writing. It has a beautiful simple sound to it. It reads as if the author considered every beat, every single word, every simile. It doesn’t come across as flowery language or particularly poetic. It’s more an earthy, honesty in the words and the main character’s viewpoint that spoke to me.

This is the story of Iris. She’s desperate for school to be finished and the summer to begin. She wants to escape her self-centred, shallow friend Matty. She wants peace and I got the sense that she wanted to let nature wash over and embrace her. Things haven’t been great in their rural home since her mum left. Her older brother Sam’s been acting out of character – getting into trouble at school, avoiding his best mate. And dad is drinking more and more.

As the summer arrives so do a group of Irish travellers who set up home in one of the family’s paddocks. Iris’s dad is furious – he spouts prejudicial comments about them being scroungers, a scourge on society etc and warns Iris to stay away from them. But as Iris watches out the window at the family living a completely different way of life she becomes more and more curious about the boy who disappears off into the wilderness.

Iris and Trick connect because they listen to each other. They ignore the prejudice that their parents would have them believe and instead discover their own truth about friendship, honesty and love. But of course, they’re blossoming relationship cannot stay secret and soon the conflict between their families turns to tragedy. So it’s also a story about forgiveness.

Infinite Sky is a book that you can lose yourself in. It’s poignant, moving and has a life all of its own. Highly recommended.

Try it if you enjoyed: