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NM Browne

Bloomsbury (2011)


Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Wolf Blood was one of those novels that sounded as though it should be good, but which failed to ever engage my interest. I was largely bored while reading this, and was quite pleased when it ended. I think it may be the first of a series (it isn’t labelled as such, but the ending is suggestive), but found I didn’t care at all.

Trista is a Celtic warrior girl, captured and enslaved in battle. She has endured her captivity stoically, despite her eventual realisation that there is no real honor in it. When the only person she cares about dies, she escapes. And promptly finds herself recaptured by two Roman foot soldiers. The soldiers have their own problems though; and before too long Trista is on the run with just one of them. A werewolf unaware of his own nature, the Roman soldier must come to terms with who or what he is – and then decide what side to fight on. Trista and Morcant (the soldier) have a chance to save the Celtic tribes from Roman invasion. Will they act on it? And if they do, will they succeed?

Lee Nichols

Bloomsbury (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-4088-1960-9

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Deception is an extremely good young adult novel; and it’s strong in almost every area, making it difficult to point to any one thing that helps it to catch and keep the reader’s interest.  But it does this well, and will keep most readers engrossed until the end of the novel.

The novel is subtitled “A Haunting Emma Novel”. This appears to be code for book one in a series. As such, although this novel does provide some short term answers, it leaves a lot of loose ends to be addressed in future novels. Although there is always some frustration attendant on this, Deception is good enough that most readers won’t mind – they’ll want to read the sequel(s) anyway

Emma Vaile is seventeen and grumpy.Her parents have gone off on a vague business trip, combined with the intention to visit her brother overseas.  Now none of them are answering their phones or email. And since their only employee quit the day after they left, Emma has to run their antiques shop as well as go to school. And school isn’t much fun either; most of her friends were a year ahead of her and have already graduated, and an ill-fated fling between Emma’s brother and best friend means she’s not even on speaking terms with her friend anymore.

Sam Bowring

Strange Threads, Book 1

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 978-0-7336-2812-2

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

I’d never heard of Sam Bowring before this book crossed my desk, although he’s an experienced Australian writer; and I can only say that I was clearly missing out. This is an extremely good novel, which drew me in quickly and held my attention. It’s the first in a trilogy, and I’m looking forward to reading the remaining books. Although Bowring writes with a relaxed style that makes it easy to devour the novel, there’s quite a lot of depth to this. Obviously, a certain amount of the novel is spent on set-up. Bowring weaves the history in quite cleverly and provides an eventful novel while still leaving a lot to be addressed in books two and three.

Rostigan is a wandering warrior – not exactly a mercenary, as he seeks only enough money to keep himself and his companion, the Minstrel Tarzi. He will undertake ridiculously dangerous tasks for no better reason than that someone should help. It soon becomes clear to the reader that this isn’t the only thing that differentiates him from other mercenaries – he’s also one of the legendary Wardens. Centuries ago, these Wardens saved the world by destroying Lord Regret and his rogue magic. In destroying Lord Regret, each of the Wardens took on some of his magic. Some were turned towards their baser instincts and wreaked havoc on the world; others responded to better instincts and brought good. Eventually, the Wardens disappeared or died, sometimes at the hands of each other. The better among them are still revered as saints.

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Charlaine Harris

Gollancz (2012)

ISBN: 978-0-575-09658-5

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Deadlocked is Charlaine Harris in a return to the form which first hooked me on the Sookie Stackhouse novels. None of the novels in this series have been bad, but a couple of the recent ones seemed to focus on character development or advancing the overall story arc at the expense of a plot complete within the novel. Deadlocked offers an interesting self contained plot, important character developments, and a step forward in the overall story arc.

DJ Daniels

Dragonfall Press (2012)

ISBN: 978-0-9806341-9-8

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

What the Dead Said is a novel based around a good, original idea, which somehow never comes to full fruition. Although the novel is not bad, it lacks a single realistic, credible character for the reader to engage with, and the plot is vague and unfocused. The result is a novel that isn’t terrible, but never really catches your interest either.

In Sydney in 2021, the barriers between the worlds have become porous. Suddenly ghosts are everywhere, and worse, everyone can see them. Most ghosts aren’t very nice – some are positively unstable. So most people find it unsettling to spend each day navigating a world now populated with ghosts. In addition, the ghosts like to interfere with the human world. They play nasty pranks (such as frightening some people to death), and although they’re happy to give testimony about such matters as their own murder, you can’t be sure they’re telling the truth. Vampires have come out of the shadows and act as a sort of intermediary between ghosts and humans, but that’s only a minor comfort as most humans don’t like vampires much either.

Carrie Jones and Steven E Wedel

Bloomsbury (2011)

ISBN: 978-1-4088-1827-5

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

After Obsession is a young adult novel which is fast moving, entertaining and interesting, but not particularly thought provoking. It has limited depth, but the entertainment value is strong.

Two people wrote the novel: Carrie Jones is the author of at least three previous books, including Captivate, while so far as I can tell, Steven Wedel is a first time author. The novel certainly had the same tone to it as Captivate – it suggests that Jones may have been a more dominant partner in the writing.

Alan has just moved to Maine and he’s less than happy. He and his single mother moved to be with her sister and niece after the death of her brother in law. Alan doesn’t much like Maine – it’s cold. And the school is so small it doesn’t have a football team, which dashes his hopes of a football scholarship to university and a professional career to follow. And besides, he’s always had a sneaking hope that his father might come looking for him – even though he may not even know that Alan, the result of a one night stand, exists. This seems even less likely now they’ve moved.

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Lara Morgan

The Twins of Saranthium, book 2

Pan Macmillan Australia (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-4050-3928-4
Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack
Betrayal is a difficult book to review, because it’s so middle of the road; didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, didn’t find it very memorable. There’s not much wrong with it, but there’s also very little to make it stand out from the great mass of published books.
The novel is book two of a series, and I hadn’t read book one. Although this obviously left some holes in my knowledge of the plot, it didn’t feel very hard to pick up. I was pretty confident I knew what was going on fairly early on. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it very interesting.
Shaan and her twin Tallis have escaped from Azoth – a fallen god intent on conquering the human world. He has enslaved the people of the Wild Lands, and amassed an army of human-serpent warriors (created through a cruel magical process that often involves unwilling subjects). He has plans to invade, and he intends to implement these very soon. The only chance humans have is to unite against him.

Gemma Malley

The Killables, book 1

Hodder and Stoughton (2012)


Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

The Killables is the first in a dystopian trilogy aimed at young adults, although it is likely to appeal to adult readers as well. It is an entertaining and well written novel, which provides a reasonable sense of completion around some matters while still leaving much hanging for the following books to resolve.

Malley is the author of a previous dystopian trilogy aimed at the same audience (The Declaration, The Resistance and The Legacy). Despite that surface similarity – and the fact that both trilogies have a particular focus on a young couple – it is clear from The Killables that the two trilogies are in fact very different. For one thing, The Killables feels a little more complex; neither trilogy deals with simple issues, but this one feels like it dwells on the issues with a little more depth.

Evie tries hard to be very grateful. She and her parents live in The City. The City was established as society fell apart during the horrors of endless, pointless, destructive wars.  It is more than a safe haven where food and water and shelter is available – evil has been eradicated! Everyone has had an operation to remove the evil part of their brain. And each person now carries a label; the System determines how “good” they are and ranks them accordingly. This impacts on their social position, work, and general happiness. And if they show signs of the evil re-emerging, they are labeled a “K” and taken away to be operated on again. Except they never seem to come back…

Kevin Hearne

Iron Druid Chronicles, book 2

Del Ray

ISBN: 9780345522498

Reviewed by Stephanie Gunn

Hexed is the second book in Kevin Hearne’s urban fantasy series The Iron Druid Chronicles, following on from Hounded.

This series follows two-thousand-year-old druid Atticus O’Sullivan, kept young by magic, as he moves through the modern world. As well as himself, the last of the druids, the world also contains other supernaturals: vampires and shapeshifters exist, and so do all of the gods and goddesses.

Atticus has been living quietly, and when the series begins is running a New Age bookstore, using his magic to tend the earth and to treat customers complaints with his special blends of herbal teas, curing anything from rheumatism to unwanted love. During the first book in the series, his attempt at a quiet life was shattered, and as the second book begins, he finds himself the target of many, including a group of witches intent on destroying him.

On the surface, this book is a light, humorous urban fantasy with lots of shoutouts for geek readers. Atticus is a mostly likeable character, and his perspective is easy to slip into, even if his voice does usually feel much too young for his supposed age most of the time. His dog, Oberon, whom Atticus converses with telepathically, is a particular source of amusement.

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VM Zito

Hodder and Stoughton    

ISBN: 978-1-444-72518-6

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Generally speaking, I avoid horror novels. It’s a genre that doesn’t particularly connect with me. And yet this novel – unmistakeably horror – absolutely mesmerised me. Kept me up reading, just one more page to find out what happens next … and one more page … and one more… You’re doing something right when someone who doesn’t like the genre can’t put your book down.

In The Return Man, Zito has deliberately used many familiar tropes – a zombie apocalypse, the US divided into two, social collapse, government conspiracies, and nasty viruses, to name just a few. However, he’s managed to infuse them with a sense of freshness and verve that’s likely to strongly engage most readers.

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