5 of 5 stars to ‘Panic’ by Lauren Oliver


Thrilling masterpiece

Carp is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. It’s inhabitants trudge through the dreariness of a hard life, dreaming of one day leaving this messed up town in hopes of something better. That’s how ‘panic’ started. It’s a dangerous game of chance where the stakes are high, but the winnings are still enough to lure dozens of hopeful seniors each year to risk life and limb. This year, Heather, Dodge and Natalie will make the leap, risking everything for the chance of being able to escape their dismal lives in Carp. Each has their own reasons for playing, but none of them could ever realize just how dangerous ‘panic’ would be, nor how intertwined their lives would become as each fights for the chance to become the one and only winner. There is something very poignant and crisp about Lauren Oliver’s writing style. She writes with such flair that emotions comes spilling out of each character and it’s impossible not to picture in detail each individual eyelash and scar on the faces of her protagonists. The characters in ‘Panic’ are not starry-eyed teenagers. They’re thick-skinned, hardened by difficult lives. Each day is a struggle. And yet despite the hardships they face, each one of them is strong in their own right. The dialogue is real and the dynamic between the teens is fascinating. Each interaction and gripping story-twist is like watching two trains heading for a collision – it’s horrifying, but you can’t bear to look away because you never know, something could still happen at the last second to prevent the crash. This is a story of hope. It’s proof that a sad start in life doesn’t always determine the ending, that bravery will triumph and that love still has the power to conquer all circumstance. Yet another thrilling masterpiece from Lauren Oliver.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Alliances’ by S Usher Evans


Unlikely friendship

“Screw them,” she said to herself. “I’m going to make them respect me whether they like it or not.”

Razia is fighting her way up the ladder in the male dominated world of universal piracy. It’s a tough job and frustrating when nobody seems to take her seriously, despite the fact that she regularly outdoes the competition.
It’s tougher still when she has to juggle her second identity as Dr Lyssa Peate. Dr Peate may be more respectable than Razia in the eyes of the law, but she has more than her share of family issues.
When Lyssa gets winds of a secret pirate meeting, she’s not surprised. Her male counterparts are always trying to exclude her. But there’s more to the secret meeting than meets the eye. Razia teams up with sassy agent Lizbeth to uncover a massive plot that will have serious personal and career implications for both of her identities.

Oh, how I love Razia! She is feminist power personified and yet, in this installment of the Razia series, we get a deeper glimpse into the real Razia beneath the pirate facade. She’s vulnerable, a little tender-hearted and has a sense of humor to boot.
Usher has stepped it up in a big way in Alliances. This one has it all: the thrill of a dangerous investigation; the perfect amount of arrogance and sexual tension between Teon and Razia (when is she going to get it together?); a large amount of very realistic familial strife; the fantastical workings of a politically complete universe and; most notably, a fresh, funny and real friendship between Razia and Lizbeth.
The story is well paced and Lyssa’s character development is heartwarming as she finally comes to the realization that life it not all about her, and it’s okay to lean on someone every now and then.

This one is not to be missed!

5 of 5 stars to ‘The Maze Runner’ by James Dashner

The maze runner

Fast-paced dystopian wonder

When Thomas arrives in the Glade, he remembers nothing but his name. He knows nothing about how he got into this little community or his life preceding his arrival. And yet the little Glade where his fellow Gladers have been living for the past two years seems oddly familiar. Then things start changing and the self-sufficient community is plunged into terror, with Thomas at the centre. Now, more than ever, the Gladers know they must escape the treacherous maze or face death. But can they overcome their suspicions and hold onto hope long enough to find a way out?

It’s been a while since a dystopian novel had me on the edge of my seat the way ‘The Maze Runner’ did. James Dashner has clearly mastered the art of suspense and pace, revealing just enough to keep you wanting more and throwing in wondrous plot-twists and red herrings along the way.

Each character was expertly created with his own flair and quirks. I would have liked to get to know Teresa’s character more, but I sense this will come in later installments int he series. The dynamics between the characters was fascinating, most especially their reactions under extremely stressful conditions. The fantasy world created was detailed and yet mysterious, as befitting the story. The story line was unique, thrilling, scary, exciting and heart-warming.

The premise is probably one of the most gripping I’ve ever considered. It’s one any national geographic or dystopian lover must have thought about at some time and Dashner’s unique take opens many more trains of thought. His perspective on humanity, the lack thereof and reaction under pressure is eye-opening, to say the least. I cannot wait to read the next book!

3 of 5 stars to ‘Findley’s Lass’ by Suzan Tisdale

Findleys lass

Lightly entertaining

It was a chance meeting that brought Findley McKenna and Maggy Boyle together, but from the first moment, the independent widow had stolen Findley’s heart. Unable to think of anything but the fiery-haired lass, Findley returns to offer her a home in which to raise her five foster boys. But when he arrives in the little valley Maggy calls home, he finds only destruction and death. Fearing the worst, Findley searches the ruins and is relieved to find that Maggy and four of her boys have escaped the massacre, but her fifth son has been taken as hostage by an evil Laird hell-bent on forcing Maggy to marry him.

Can Findley win Maggy’s trust? Can they rescue Ian? Can Findley get Maggy to spill her secrets and ultimately, can they overcome the many challenges that threaten to keep them apart?

I have a certain fondness – perhaps even an obsession for all things Scottish, most especially Scots fiction heroes. Scottish men are stereotypically brave, handsome warriors – and I quite like that stereotype. Novels set in the highlands often also include sweeping descriptions of the foggy lochs and heather-strewn hills – another huge plus in my opinion.

Sadly, ‘Findley’s lass’ was lacking in both these areas. While it was a pleasant story, I felt the characters of Findley and Maggie were not strong enough for my liking. The antagonists were overly-evil and stereo-typical, and I would have preferred to see some kind of redeeming quality in both of them for more reader conflict. There was very little descriptive writing, which is such a shame in this amazing setting. The story, I felt was too long with too many crests and falls and could have been simplified. The metaphors were cliche, and the excessive use of the words ‘braw’ and ‘tetched’ became positively irritating in the second half of the book.

Overall, it was a lightly entertaining novel and I still enjoyed parts of it, like the character of William, who was stronger in personality that Findley in my opinion. The little bits of humor also kept me going.

Audible narrator: I felt that the narrator was overly-dramatic in this performance. I did not enjoy it.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Blue lily, lily blue’ by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue lily lily blue

Bewitching and thrilling

Blue and her boys are this close to unravelling the mystery of the sleeping Welsh King. But in a place as magical and unpredictable as Cabeswater, nothing is certain and nothing is safe. Can they unravel the clues in time? Can they save those lost along the way? Can they resist waking the third sleeper?

It’s official. Maggie Stiefvater is my all time favorite author, and this is the book that cinched the deal. Every word and phrase melts in your mouth. The prose is utterly beautiful, haunting and bewitching. The storyline is like no other. Each character is so rounded, you can’t help but fall in love with them – even the arrogant ones! Every thought, every deed is so uniquely human, and drives the story relentlessly forward. It is the mark of a master story-teller to write with such flair that the backstory of each character, right down to their individual speech accents, is evident in each scene, without the telling of it.

This installment is particularly rich in suspense. It is a paranormal thriller, so well written, you will be perched on the very edge of your seat from beginning to end. When I think of this novel, and ‘The Raven King’ to come, my heart beats a little faster. This is writing at it’s very best!

Blue Sargent Kiss without a kiss