Review: Michael Adams – Skyfire

Michael Adams

DARE to dream. Seven recipients on seven continents have just won the experience of a lifetime (and 1 million dollars). They’re leaders as teenagers in their fields – math, crime fighting or marine biology! Little do they know that something more sinister might be going on.

27804000I really liked the nifty symbols and I think the author had a lot of fun coming up with them. It likely took a bit of research on his behalf, and it shows nicely. I’m loving the Signmaker and I think lots of teenage readers are going to be able to get into this novel.

This reminds me strongly of The Last Thirteen (reviews of #2 and #3 here). These novels are designed for reluctant readers, particularly teenage boys. They are designed to be full of action, plot driven and with cliff hangers to encourage the reader to get the next. I’m not sure how I feel about the concept myself – committing teenagers to buying six more novels after this one.

If you are looking for something with a bit more substance to offer your reader, might I suggest the Alex Rider series? Now those have a stronger plot line and some character development that you can sink your teeth into.

I’m giving this novel an official 3 stars from me, but I think for the intended audience it would be 4 stars. The intended audience seems to be 12 year old boys – I’m certianly not one of those, nor have I ever been one!


Scholastic | 1st September 2016 | AU $7.99 | Paperback

Review: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti – Swarm

Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti

The Zeroes have created a place of their own – a night club where each can explore their powers in a safe zone. Yet they are set to be invaded by others who are running from Swarm, a Zero with a lust for power. While the Zeroes are set to disperse, it’s possible that they would be safer toegther – who should they trust?

30172827I felt somewhat frustrated by the ending. Nate, why? Anon, why? This made no sense at all. Sure, they’ll fix things somehow, but why did they do that? Perhaps someone else who has read it can give me a more informed opinion for why on earth the ending worked.

It’s neat to think about each Zero changing the direction of their focus (Crash has done this from right near the beginning). I really feel sorry for Scam, something that has been set up from the first novel – his power seems only bring harm. That being said, every one else has that potential, but they haven’t noticed it before.

This is like a teenage / young adult version of Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, MitosisFirefight and Calamity (Epics). If you enjoyed those, there is a good chance you will enjoy these, although the characters here are a lot younger. These novels have the advantage of giving the reader more than one perspective. The premise of Superpowers can be dealt with in a variety of ways and you can see that here.

I’m giving this 5 stars, just like its predecessor ‘Zeroes‘. There’s no need to have read the first, but it’s such a good read that you should totally go and buy it right now, and this one, so that you can read them in one fell swoop.


Allen & Unwin | 28th September 2016 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

Review: Antonio Simon, Jr – The Gullwing Odyssey

The Gullwing Odyssey
Antonio Simon, Jr

Marco the messenger boy really tries to stay out of trouble. When he is instead swept up into impersonating an ambassador, things in his life get far, far more troublesome than he could have ever imagined.

18310045This novel had some fantastic laugh out loud parts that I couldn’t help sharing with my partner. And then she laughed as well. I really enjoyed it for those moments, and the language twists and the sheer absurdity of the fights that take place.

Light fiction that I just couldn’t put down. I’m not going to profess that it has no ‘deeper issues’, but sometimes you just want to read something to chill and enjoy. This novel is it.

Did I mention that it has dragons? And that they are personified just like humans? And that I love dragons? I felt like I could have done with more from their perspective, but you know what? I was too busy laughing to pay too much attention.

Some of the text just seemed a bit clunky (I feel like this is my favourite way of describing a novel at the moment). The main thing was that some of the storyline elements weren’t wrapped up nicely throughout the novel. For example the contents of the package. I can’t say more without giving anything away… Perhaps this is something that will be explored in the other novels of the Gullwing Series.

I’m giving this 3 stars. Or 4 stars. I can’t decide. It’s not ‘average’, but it’s not ‘outstanding’ either. Undecided.


Review: Andy Mulligan – Liquidator

Andy Mulligan

Liquidator is an amazing new sports drink that people just can’t resist drinking. It’s more addictive than Coca Cola and Coffee, and billed as being good for you! When a couple of kids stumble over the truth, they find themselves facing life and death situations, not just for themselves.

25464528So we’ve got a couple of kids are in high school and they all manage to intertwine into facing off the guys that are in charge of Liquidator. You see more and more characters being added to the visible ‘cast’, and yet you aren’t overwhelmed because the story is moving too quickly for that to happen!

What got me really really grumpy about this novel was that it wasn’t clear which person was speaking without reading the chapter headings. That being said, the different perspectives work really well and make it more are a unisex novel. There’s no romance as a refreshing highlight and it’s just generally a feel-good novel about what difference teenagers can make.

Something else that annoyed me was that it was all about Jamie Song. I didn’t understand why this one person could make such big difference. Even if they didn’t have his photos and he didn’t survive, I don’t think it would have made a huge difference to what happens at the concert. I mean of course they wanted to save him but any of the other records they had would have made a difference. Perhaps this was just a reflection that you need a human face to make a difference.

It was fascinating how the author brought together all the different story lines. I’m going to give it three stars from me, maybe an almost 4. I kept reading because even though I could see how the different plot points were going come together, I couldn’t believe how quickly they were happening.

I’ve got someone in mind that will enjoy this novel and that’s a teenage boy. Target genre right there! It’s action packed, any teen could get hooked. I couldn’t imagine a sequel for this but if it was to happen I would hope it would be as our interesting and complex as this was.


Review: D.E. Wyatt – No Good Deed

No Good Deed
D.E. Wyatt

Elsabeth and Hieronymus are always getting into trouble, yet always manage to scrape out by the skin of their teeth. When Elzabeth forgoes a warning in favour of sex, things get a little more heated that she intended.

18710486This novel reminded me a bit of Robin Hood, except that the two main characters couldn’t have cared less about anyone else. But you know what? I don’t actually have a problem with that! It’s nice to have protagonists that aren’t ‘nice’ for a change. Scoundrels can get away with a lot more fun things.

Elsabeth is great at everything she does – swordfighting, sex and scams. But she’s just not very good at thinking. Compared to the other protagonist, Brother Hieronymus, she does more thinking, but damn, they’re both stupid! Why do you not get that you are being led on the whole time?

In this novel I felt like I was being spoon fed too many details. I didn’t need to think for myself at all. I was told, not shown, most of the excitement. There could have been more immediacy to the whole thing.

I received this novel from the author quite a while ago *cough cough, 2013??* but never got around to reading it because the front cover just didn’t fill me with glee. I’m giving it 3 stars now, but that’s being generous. I could put it down and pick it up far too easily.


Review: Anthony Horowitz – Crocodile Tears

Crocodile Tears
Anthony Horowitz

Genetically changed crops are the next stage in feeding the world. But of course, they can also be the source of a plague. Alex Rider is pitted against someone that isn’t even the obvious threat. It’ll take his wits (as usual) to get out of it…

6566616This novel gets off to a roaring start with a party and a road accident. Things seem to go back to normal then, but of course, Alex is in the middle of something before he even notices. Alex never learns. He just can’t help himself, and so he gets into trouble, and he doesn’t know if he’ll survive. But he just has to do it! MI6 chose the right person for the job.

I find myself frustrated by the usual formula of needing to use every gadget you are given! It means that I knew how things would work out. But then again, I love gadgets, and I would have been happy to see a bunch more of them! Gadgets are way more exciting than guns.

The blurb says that this is ‘his most dangerous adversary yet’, but I don’t think it is. All of the villains get a bit same-y eventually. Their motives are usually power, or money. And they all feel the need to brag about their plans! And pretend that it’s cool that it’s a 14 year old in front of them, a bright one, but still too young to make any sort of sense of most of the stuff.

It had been a while since I read the other novels in this series, but it honestly didn’t matter. This book is a stand-alone, any extra information you might need is briefed by one of the other characters. 3-4 stars from me, simply because it wasn’t that absorbing. I got it as a talking book to listen to while I worked, and it made a lovely distraction.


Review: Tracy Alexander – Hacked

Tracy Alexander

Dan is a hacker. When he drifts from one side of the law to another in order to get justice for his friend, he suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of the law – with no-one listening to what he can do to help.

22678001Ok, first off. It’s a plot driven novel. That basically means you can kiss goodbye to character development. In fact, if you ignore character development all together, you would be better off. I found the characterisation of the main character patchy, and I never really got into the motivations of the other characters.

The premise of this novel is that it is easy to cross a line with hacking on the internet. There’s a couple of different terms I could use, but the easiest is ‘White Hat’ and ‘Black Hat’. Basically, the Black Hats are the guys with a malignant intent – they want to destroy things just to prove they can. Then there are White Hats, those who find the holes in security and help out the ‘good guys’.

The ending was particularly unsatisfying. Yay, happy for everyone. But not really… I wanted more meaty bits of details! How many other people were scammed? The second half of the book was far weaker than the first.

Dan didn’t seem like he was 16 years old. He could have been younger. In fact, his friends also acted very young, with the exception of the girl he liked – who seemed a bit up herself to be honest. She saw only black and white, no grey.

I didn’t like the explanation of ADHD being the reason Dan wasn’t to blame for anything. it’s a diagnosis. It’s the first line of the blurb. But it doesn’t do anything for the story. It’s about the computers, and I don’t think the author should be trying to sell anything else with it.

Other reviewers have given this one star. I don’t think it’s that bad, honestly, provided you read it for what it is, and you hit the target market just right. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, that’s for sure.

I put off reading this novel because I was warned it wasn’t very good. I actually enjoyed it, and read it in one sitting. Granted, I had nothing else to do, but I just couldn’t seem to put it down. The more I think about it, the more holes I want to poke in it though. My initial assessment was 4 stars, and I’m going to leave it at that (err on the side of nice). It’s a driving plot that should keep people enthralled – even those people who ‘hate’ reading.

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Review: Anthony Horowitz – Snakehead

Anthony Horowitz
Twists, turns and family dramas. Alex Rider is embroiled in another job that is custom made for him. I often wonder what will happen to him when he grows up… or whether he ever will. Hit the jump for more.
1821571If the bad guys ever learnt not to gloat, and to shoot first, then Alex Rider would be in trouble. Instead they like to create creative ends for him, which he always manages to wriggle out of. It’s pretty close though, as a reader I’m almost always on the edge of my seat. I’m both hoping and dreading reaching the end of the series, as Alex’s luck could finally run out!
Alex has abandoned any attempt to be normal, and seems to be finally embracing the spy life. He’s not a patriot, he’s doing it only to find out what has happened to his mom and dad. Little does he know that he’s doomed from the beginning, and almost everything he trusts is a lie.
Something that fascinates me is Horowitz’s  realistic settings, and the effort he puts into being international. This is the first time he has really included Australia, which is totally typical of most writers. Australia is more of a destination than an explored place. Horowitz is very creative in the way he kills off the characters. It’s a mark of the research he obviously puts into his writing – I really appreciate it, after reading such things as ‘Twilight’ where things aren’t really thought out.
Thrilling, in fact I’d say it was one of the better books of the series. It was a little longer in length (or it felt that way). Horowitz puts his trademark twists in, as well as some gadgets, and some very nice disguises. What the reader thinks is a simple job, really never is.
I’d recommend this for teens who enjoy action. At this point in the series, I think it is essential to have read the books that came before. This book picks up straight after ‘Ark Angel’.

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Review: Anthony Horowitz – Ark Angel

Ark Angel
Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider just can’t keep out of trouble. Recovering from a chest wound in hospital is never easy when you need to save your mate next door. Another gripping tale from Horowitz. Hit the jump for more…

94319Alex has been sniper shot when leaving MI6. He vows to himself that he will go home, rest and recover. He makes a friend in the hospital though, and when he seems threatened, Alex finds himself in action. Once again Alex must try make a case against a powerful man who has the potential to destroy the world.

Alex doesn’t seem to have many gadgets this time, although he ends up working with the CIA, it is his favourite pal at MI6 that brings him the gadgets he can use. For once there is another agent undercover with him who is able to save his skin when he gets into trouble!

Horowitz makes the book end on a cliffhanger – totally predictable to the canny reader by now. But he does make an effort to change up the plot, bringing in different spy elements. Alex is again likable, but I didn’t see that much change in his character from Scorpia. Sure, Alex wants to go home and is longing for the easy life – but this is Alex, he never does things the easy way.

I’d recommend this book for teenagers. If they have read the rest of this series, the conclusion won’t be much of a surprise, but it will leave them hankering after the next book in the series.

I have to wait now until I get my hands on the final three books… I didn’t order them in my last 10% off offer I took advantage of, and now I have to wait!

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Review: Anthony Horowitz – Scorpia

Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider is a teenage spy. This time he has to choose between good and evil – but the line isn’t clear-cut and he has no idea what to do. Even if you haven’t read the other books, the beginning is good, as it quickly recapped what happened in the last book. Hit the jump for more…

542414The explanation of Alex’s father fits in with the fourth book, and if you hadn’t read it recently you might forget the significance. It’s absolutely a convoluted plot that even the audience doesn’t see coming – neither does Alex. just as you think the end is approaching, you note that the book still has a bunch of pages yet, and you know that Alex has to do something quickly to save himself!

I noticed similarities to the Bond movies/books again, but this time Horowitz acknowledges them. Alex is left without any particular gadgets this time, and so it is far more interesting to see what Scorpia equips him with. It’s amazing what you can do when you’re evil! Also, this book has more about fantastic disguises than gadgets.

The ending is shocking. If you didn’t know there were more books in the series, you’d be horrified! As it is, the ending is in clear, painful narration that makes the reader want to shout ‘No!’ but there is nothing they can do. Horowitz keeps the reader in his tight grasp the whole time.

This is mainly done by the compelling plot and narration, and also the character of Alex. Alex is well drawn, and again you can see the character development. Overall an enjoyable book. I’m going to hate reaching the end of the novel I own, and will be dying to pick up the new ones in the shops! But not for another couple of reviews sadly.

This novel is again more bloody than the last, and I’d start recommending it only for very mature children, and probably teens only.

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