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Lauren Oliver

Delirium, book 2

HarperCollins

ISBN: 9780062101990

Reviewed by Stephanie Gunn

Pandemonium is the second book in Lauren Oliver’s YA trilogy beginning with Delirium.

In the future world of these books, love has been declared a disease – deemed amor deliria nervosa. Several decades after its identification as a disease, and forty-three years before the events of Delirium, a cure was discovered. When people reach the age of eighteen, they undergo brain surgery to cure them of the deliria. Before the cure, they are assessed and matched to the individual they are to marry and have children with.

Lena, the teenage protagonist of the books, had assumed that, like her older sister, she would be cured when she turned eighteen. Lena looked forward to her cure, and to freedom from the disease. Her mother had been driven mad by the deliria, remaining in love with her family and friends despite three attempted cures. In Deliria, Lena’s carefully planned life was upturned when she met Alex, an uncured “Invalid”, and she succumbed to the deliria herself, falling in love with Alex.

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Alison Goodman

(also published as Eon, Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye, and Eon: Dragoneye Reborn)

HarperCollins (2008)

ISBN: 9780732288006

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely (this review was first published in October 2008)

It’s been a long time since I’ve been sucked into a world so completely that I’ve read each page in breathless anticipation, unable to put the book down. When I managed to pry my eyes from the pages of award-winning author Alison Goodman’s The Two Pearls of Wisdom, it still filled my thoughts, and I counted the seconds until I could immerse myself again.

But where to start? With the utterly real and heart-wrenching characterization perhaps? The author has created a marvellously detailed world peopled with characters who are so non-stereotypical and beautifully realized that you care deeply about their lives, their decisions and their actions. This is true not just of the main character Eon/Eona, but of the supporting cast as well. You fear for Eona as she battles for her power, her life, her honour. You almost cry over her anxiety, and burst with pride at her accomplishments. It is such a powerful connection between characters and reader. The character of Eona is true to her age and experience – her uncertainty about her power, and the decisions she struggles with, are congruent with the overwhelming situation she is facing. She has such enormous responsibility thrust on her from the very beginning, holding the lives of her household in her hands, and then so much more, that her actions are believable and honest. Read the rest of this entry »

Kim Westwood

Harper Collins (August 2011) 

ISBN: 978-0-7322-8988-1

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

The Courier’s New Bicycle is the second novel from Australian writer Kim Westwood. It is a novel likely to win her new fans, as it is well written and in some regards more accessible than her debut, The Daughters of Moab. Most notably, the plot is more straightforward and uses some familiar tropes, and that’s going to make it easier for more people to read and enjoy it. Also, there is a warmth to this novel that was sometimes lacking in the earlier novel; in particular, Westwood now offers an engaging central character. However, while the plot and setting is less unique than in The Daughters of Moab, Westwood maintains her sparse tone and occasionally dark humor.

To some extent, this is a crime novel in a science fictional setting. The action takes place in near future Australia. A flu vaccine rolled out Australia-wide under the pressure of a deadly pandemic has had the unplanned side effect of all but destroying human fertility. A religious party was voted into power and once in power unveiled a number of unsavoury policies, including those banning fertility treatments, surrogacy arrangements, and indeed any remedy but prayer. At the same time resources such as fuel and water are in shortening supply, and this affects things such as transport – bicycles are again viable and popular forms of transport.

In this world Salisbury Forth treads an increasingly dangerous path. A bicycle courier, she primarily transports illegal hormones for the fertility industry, operating in the Melbourne underground. She herself is androgynous, and prefers women as her sexual partners. Either her appearance or her preferences could get her tagged as a transgressor, and both together could get her killed. Always risky, Sal’s world gets still more dangerous when a mysterious competitor decides to try to put her boss out of business. If Sal can’t find who it is, her livelihood, the people she loves, and the small quiet safe life she’s built herself could all be destroyed in a heartbeat or two. Read the rest of this entry »

Claudia Gray

An Evernight novel

HarperCollins (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-7322-8969-0

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

After the destruction of Evernight Academy, born-vampire Bianca has taken refuge with boyfriend Lucas and the Black Cross. But Bianca’s nature is becoming harder to ignore, and when the vampire hunters find out her secret, nowhere is safe. Pursued by vampires on one side and hounded by Black Cross on the other, Bianca and Lucas try to live a semi-normal life together, until Charity, insane and obsessed, uncovers them. Nowhere is safe, and suddenly Bianca’s unusual physiology is causing even more problems. Can she and Lucas ever be together?

I missed book two of this series, but managed to pick up the missing pieces fairly easily. I remember loving Evernight, particularly for the very clever setup of the story; however, while the author is still trying to keep the story entertaining in Hourglass, with world-building that sets it apart from most of the other teen paranormals, for me, it dragged a little. Gray seemed to be trying too hard to cram a whole heap of action into the story, which felt forced – I would have preferred a little less stuff happening for a cleaner, more committed story.

This series is an entertaining read, and is one of the better additions to the genre, but I hope the author tightens up her storytelling in the next instalment.

Written by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Charles Vess

HarperCollins (2010)

Reviewed by Joanna Kasper

If you grew up, as I did, reading fairy stories, you already know what this poem is telling you. This is like the condensed version of all you need to know to successfully navigate the world of fairy. Remember your manners, be helpful and kind, and maintain a positive attitude. It is beautifully written and reads aloud wonderfully, and if you have children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews or small children within a reasonable radius you should buy this book and read it to them.

The illustrations are beautiful, with intricate, page-wide panoramas that will have you asking, “Is that Cinderella’s coach over there behind the trees?”, and, “Do you see all the creatures hiding in the dark, mysterious wood?”.

I have not enough superlatives for this book, the only thing better than reading it yourself is finding a recording on the internet of Neil himself reading it aloud. Go, do it, he has an amazing voice.

Melissa Marr

Harper Collins (2009)

ISBN: 9780007267194

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

As the third book in this paranormal fairytale series marketed to a young adult audience, Fragile Eternity was a bit of surprise to me. I haven’t read the first two books (the equally beautifully packaged Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange), and I found this one read a lot more like a romance novel than an urban fantasy (well, except that, you know, faeries!). Read the rest of this entry »

Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt

HarperCollins (2009)

ISBN: 978-0-00-732395-1

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

To be brutally honest, the best part of this book was the essay at the end, where the authors explain the genesis of the novel and outline their writing and plot decision-making processes. It’s not a bad book, but neither is it the kind of compelling read I was hoping for.

The original Dracula, by Dacre Stoker’s great-granduncle Bram Stoker, is now seen as the blueprint for vampire literature and film. It holds the seeds that spawned Twilight, Vampire Academy, Evernight and all the current crop of teen-fangfests that abound on our shelves, albeit in an almost unrecognisable form at times. Over the decades since its publication, Hollywood has drawn on Stoker’s story and embellished it, writers have used his vampire “lore” and moulded it to suit themselves.

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Conn Iggulden

HarperCollins (2007-08)

Wolf of the Plains – Vol 1, ISBN: 978-0007201747

Lords of the Bow – Vol 2, ISBN: 978-0007201778

Bones of the Hills – Vol 3, ISBN: 978-0007201792

Reviewed by David Buchbinder, June 2010

I began reading this series with the second volume, Lords of the Bow, because this was the first book I received and was asked to review.  I find it awkward, of course, to enter a narrative series in the middle—I feel as though I have arrived very belatedly at a party, long after friendships have been made, bonds affirmed, confidences and knowledges exchanged.  I hang about uncomfortably at the edges of the narrative, trying to look as though I were part of the conversation, but feeling a little mystified and often quite shut out of the sharing of memories, ideas and, above all, stories.  Often my engagement in the conversation is based on guesswork about what happened at the party while I wasn’t there.

In a sense, however, it was entirely appropriate that I begin with the middle volume: the series is described on the front covers of each book as “The Epic Story of the Great Conqueror,” and one of the rules of epic narrative, as these came to be formulated in antiquity and codified later, was that such narratives should begin in medias res, that is, literally, “in the middle of things.”  The Conqueror series lives up to its description as an epic narrative, though its author, Conn Iggulden, has chosen to begin his story at the beginning, rather than in the middle.

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