Tory Brennan is as fascinated by bones and dead bodies as her famous aunt, acclaimed forensic anthropologist, Tempe Brennan. However living on a secluded island off Charleston in South Carolina there is not much opportunity to put her knowledge to the test. Until she and her group of technophile friends stumble across a shallow grave containing the remains of a girl who has been missing for over thirty years.
With the cold-case murder suddenly hot, Tory realises that they are involved in something fatally dangerous. And when they rescue a sick dog from a laboratory on the same island, it becomes evident that somehow the two events are linked.
On the run from forces they don’t understand, they have only each other to fall back on. Until they succumb to a mysterious infection that heightens their senses and hones their instincts to impossible levels. Their illness seems to have changed their very biology – and suddenly it’s clear that the island is home to something well beyond their comprehension. It’s a secret that has driven men to kill once. And will drive them to kill again…
Now, I know good old Kathy from her Tempe Brennan series. This was a series where the first books were amazing but then, as the series progressed, got a tad too detailed into subjects that bored me and I had lost interest in the characters. I think that it was halfway through ‘Deadly Voyage’ that we finally parted ways. It was with surprise, intrigue and hope then, that I picked up ‘Virals’ from the library. I was interested in seeing whether this was another Adult fiction author trying to milk the, what is now incredibly lucrative, cash cow that is Young Adult fiction or whether Kathy had a story to tell that suited this genre best?
The female protagonist in this book is Tempe Brennan’s niece, Tory. Amusingly, because of the connection, so many ‘adults’ have purchased this book assuming that it is a continuation of the Tempe Brennan series and then slammed this book for not being so. Whilst Tempe is mentioned as is clearly idolised by her niece, that is about the extent of her role within the book and will most probably remain as such in the series as a distant figure, due to the fact that the book is very much a preternatural, science fiction based read.
The main characters are an intelligent bunch of young teenagers who, thanks to being the only children of their age, are living on an island that is closely connected to the mainland. They find themselves isolated geographically and socially from their more affluent, mainland peers. But that’s okay as at the moment they’re happier being a tight social unit, playing on nearby islands that house research facilities, that, believe it or not are doing unlicensed experiments on animals. They then save a sick ‘Wolfdog puppy’, subject to unknown experiments, not realising that he is contagious.
I found this book very slow to get into. Too much narrative was used in places i.e, unless you’re a budding marine biologist do you really want to read half a page dedicated to how to clean a shell properly? I found it to be very cliched, maybe that’s due to being older and potentially much more cynical than the intended age range? It was also surprising just how many big words are in the book that even I didn’t understand. The argument could be though that Kathy is trying to not be patronising towards the younger reader or that I am not as clever as I think I am!
Verdict : An enjoyable yet not the most thrilling of reads in this genre. I am glad that I borrowed it from the library instead of purchasing. I will however give it the benefit of doubt and read the next book in the series as there is potential, now that the foundations have been laid, for the series to greatly improve.
Reviewed by Karen
Once there was a princess who had no kingdom. All she had was a pony and cart, and a red umbrella to keep her dry from the rain.
What she lacked in worldly possessions though, she made up for in kindness, cleverness and beauty-qualities that made all the rich princes with kingdoms to spare want to marry her. But what is a kingdom without love?
I bought this recently for my daughter’s 4th birthday on recommendation from a local children’s book seller and it is already a firm favourite.
The first thing I noticed was the stunning, whimsical illustrations. I particularly love the amazingly detailed silhouettes (we have found something new to look at with each exploration) and the wonderfully expressive animal images throughout the book.
Having chosen this one for its gorgeous illustration, I was immensely pleased to discover the charming, witty and modern fairytale within.
While the princess is beautiful, if a little bedraggled, her true beauty shines through in her personality. No ordinary, down trodden fairytale princess in need of rescue here. Our Princess is self confident, independent and pragmatic. Rather than being swept off her feet by a handsome prince after a single night of dancing, SHE rescues HIM.
While we are in no doubt of Princesses feelings for her Prince, a man who makes her laugh and supports her unconditionally, she is not defined by their relationship. At one point during the story it looks as though things won’t work out and while the princess expresses sadness, she picks herself up and prepares to get on with her life.
There is no happily ever after assumed here, just the promise of a beautiful shared future based on mutual understanding and goals. A much healthier and realistic role model for our daughters!
Verdict: An exquisitely illustrated modern fairytale.
Reviewed by Caroline
Each month we use our FRUGAL FICTION post look to at different ways to make the most of your money and get more books for your buck! We take £8.00, an average RRP for a paperback, and see how much literature we can get for our money. We discuss accessibility, variety of books available, value for money and top tips.
My £8.00 is not actually in my pocket this month… it’s just ‘virtually’ jangling there in the ether as I spend the monthly Frugal Fiction budget on eBooks.
Websites are springing up almost daily selling eBooks and I’m discovering that it is certainly a ‘frugal’ means to buy your books.
So with the magic ‘8’ in my mind I started off in Amazon. I admit to buying all my eBooks here at the moment as I have a Kindle. Amazon is already known for selling books cheaply and with the arrival of the Kindle a couple of years ago the Kindle book store is no exception. For me, the greatest thing about buying an eBook is that it is delivered immediately. We are not limited to just ‘fast food’ anymore! In an era where people want it and want it NOW the eBook downloads immediately and you can delve straight in.
With over 700,000 books to choose from I can be on this site for ages browsing around to my heart’s content. I’ve been delighted to find many books are free on Amazon. I can download a lot of the Classics, including; Pride and Prejudice, A tale of two cities, Jane Eyre, Treasure Island, Dracula, the list goes on and on.
Most will be familiar with the Amazon interface. It’s fairly easy to use and under ‘Bestsellers’ you’ll find lists of ‘Top 100 paid’ and ‘Top 100 free’, new releases, Editor’s Picks, Bargains etc.
There are also newspapers, magazines, and blogs you can subscribe to which will automatically download and drop into your Kindle each day/week/month when you go online with it.
There is a vast sea of sites out there and it will be case, I’m sure, of different strokes for different folks… but I want to mention a few of them.
I was impressed with Kobo. http://www.kobo.com/ Kobo says it has millions of titles, and I loved the navigation and interface of the site. Kobo calls itself a ‘device neutral platform’ as you can download eBooks to your smartphone, desktop or tablet by using a Kobo app but it isn’t currently compatible with the Kindle. However you can download as a pdf. Kobo also sell their own eReader. This is such a great site with reasonable prices and I will be downloading the Kobo app to my iPhone for sure.
Really I’ve found the list is endless. If you have an eReader then it’s best to research which site best fits your device. There are so many to choose from but I’m convinced you will find books to suit all budgets!
The new releases and best sellers tend to be at the pricier end of the scale but there are so very many bargains to be had and literally thousands of books at around the £1 to £2 mark. Each site also offers free books.
How I spent the Frugal Fiction of £8.00:
C. J. Box – Three weeks to say goodbye – £3.49
Susan Alison – White lies and custard creams – £0.97
Victoria Connelly – A weekend with Mr Darcy – £0.99
Cecelia Ahearn – Where rainbows end – £ 1.99
That’s a total of £7.44. Not bad for 4 books. And four books that I have available to instantly read without having gotten up from the sofa!
When you factor in the huge number of free eBooks out there… you could keep stretching that budget forever!
Instant download. You fancy a book, you find it, you download it. Et Voila… away you go.
I love the accessibility and convenience. E-reads can be stored easily on many different devices whether that’s a laptop, desktop, smart phone, tablet, e reader…
I’ve now added the Kindle app to my iPhone and therefore can access my ‘books’ on my phone should I want to when I’m out without my Kindle.
I think the prices are great. New releases are pricier but I’ve already noticed a book I spent quite a bit on when I first got my Kindle for Christmas last year is now a third of the cost.
As much as I love my Kindle and it’s my preferred platform for reading now, there is still something very special about buying and opening a brand new PB the first time. As my Kindle is in black and white and I skip to the beginning of the book I rarely take notice of the cover anymore… the very thing that used to attract me to a book, and then I discover it with excitement the next time I’m in a bookshop with an ‘ah… that’s what it looks like!’.
A little research is necessary to ensure you are buying books from sites that definitely support your particular device. Not all do.
There are still a lot of books out there that aren’t available as eReads yet. You may have to wait a while for a favourite book to become available.
I’d been waiting quite a while for a couple of my favourite reads to be available on Kindle. Finally I checked the other week and Hooray, they were.
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
Some riders live.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
Each November the Capailli Uisce climb out of the frigid ocean on to the beaches of Thisby. Using magical charms and ancient rituals, the islanders attempt to rein some control over these incredibly fast, carnivorous predators as they capture, train and race them.
While Thisby is beautiful and steeped in ancient traditions, life for its inhabitants is hard. A life inspiring equally strong feelings of wanting to stay and uphold these traditions, maintaining way of life and the tourism which forms the majority of the islands income, and wanting to leave to forge a different kind of life.
The absence of modern technologies alludes to a bygone era, and adds to the geographical isolation. The remaining inhabitants would not feel so bereft when a family member emigrates if they had access to skype! The exact geographical location of the island is never disclosed and yet the descriptive narrative was such that I was quickly transported to the windswept beaches. I could imagine the wind whipping my clothes and hair, the biting cold attacking my extremities and the taste of sea salt on my lips.
The prose is pure poetry; I found myself reading some passages over again and over again just to savour the deliciousness of them. In places I was compelled to speak the dialogue aloud just to savour the sound of the beautiful words.
Kate “Puck” Connolly is impulsive, proud and determined with a fiery temper. She cares deeply, for her family, her horse and her island home and I couldn’t help warming to her. It is the depth of this love that results in her entry in the deadly races.
Sean Kendrick, is the strong silent type, imagine a young Mr Darcy with dirty finger nails, a man eating horse and just a hint of magic! The man may not say much, but when he does, wow! In the tradition of all good male hero’s he has a protective streak, however this manifests as guidance and facilitation rather than paternalism.
As the story unfolds Sean Kendrick and Puck’s relationship develops from acquaintance to something deep and tender (with snogging, of course!) as they build on a foundation of mutual respect and friendship. Both of our protagonists have very strong reasons for entering and wanting to win the races, both are risking their lives for the ones they love. But there can be only one winner of the Scorpio races.
Verdict: The perfect book to curl up with while the wind howls and the rain hammers against your window. I will be buying this for myself when it is published on the 19th of October.
Reviewed by Caroline
A new, larger version of a title in which the Jolly Postman delivers cards and letters to various fairytale characters. Includes six envelopes containing letters and cards.
My eldest daughter (3 3/4) has just discovered this story. I have had it for a long time and kept it hidden as it is definitely better for children who are a bit older, in fact I think she is still too young and will get more out of it when she is 5 plus years old.
The story is about a postman delivering his letters. They go to many people your child might have heard of; the Giant from Jack and the Beanstalk, the Big Bad Wolf, the three bears, Goldilocks, Cinderella and so on. The more familiar your child is with these stories the more this book will be appreciated. All the letters reference the famous stories, for example Goldilocks writes a letter of apology to the three bears. The letters provide plenty of fun and a chance for lots of discussion, should you choose to take it. It is a great beginning for children to learn about in jokes and stories within stories.
The reason my 3 year old is so enamoured with the book is that as well as knowing some of the characters the letters are fantastic. Many of the pages have become envelopes, addressed and stamped. The letters are inside so she loves to take them out, open them look at them, put them back and so on. They are all originally done with different handwriting styles, different drawings, pamphlets, and official letters. She gets lots of fun out of looking at the book on her own and playing with all the pieces.
In addition to all this, the story of the postman is great, all written in rhyme, it is lovely to read, as well as to listen to. I used to use this book with my Yr 1 class when I was teaching. It was hugely popular and after all this time (15 years later!) I am still not tired of it. It has been fabulous to rediscover this charming book again with my own daughter.
Verdict: This is one of the best children’s books I have ever come across. An absolute must for your bookshelf.
Reviewed by Helen
As book lovers we often find that our eyes are too big for our bookshelves! So once a month we join the ladies at Book Chick City and take part in their meme ON MY WISH LIST where we post about some of the books we are keen to get our hands on whether they be old books, newly released or those yet to be published.
Author: Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn and Robert Kirkman
Introducing the first eight volumes of this fan-favorite series collected into one massive paperback collection!
I have to admit that I first knew about ‘The Walking Dead’ when the tv series was being promoted. I thought that it looked like something both my husband and I would happily watch together and I wanted to see Andrew Lincoln doing his impression of a yank!
I was then surprisingly impressed that this was not just another horror franchise that only focuses upon making you jump in your seat and over egging gory, gruesome deaths – usually involving nubile teens in a state of undress. The walking dead instead adds a much more ‘human’ element to the genre. A scene I remember very vividly is when Andrew Lincoln’s character looks for a female torso zombie. We met her briefly a day earlier moving slowly and with difficulty as she had just her arms to propel herself forwards. The next day when he is aware of what the world now represents he sets off to find her and we see just how far this lone, once human being, has mindlessly travelled and thanks to Andrew’s character shooting her, she finally gets to rest.
When the series ended, and I was in that first flush of panic as to how I was going to cope now it had gone, and explored all things ‘Walking Dead’, I was pleased to find out that the series was in fact based on a comic series, with it’s creator having a key role to ensure that the tv series remains true to the comics.
This featured compendium comprises of the comics 1-48. Reading other reviewers obvious enjoyment of the comics, most of them also not usually into comics, and the comparisons that they make with the series, reassures me that this massive tome of a comic will keep me entertained for quite awhile. Even if I do have to wait for my Birthday (mid October) before I can start reading it!
A humorous portrayal of a naive working-class family’s attempts to fit in after emigrating from Liverpool to South Africa.
When Frank Turner informs his wife and teenage son they are emigrating from Liverpool to sunny South Africa, he is unprepared for their hostile response. His defiant son makes his own silent protest, and his wife’s assertion that “we never shoulda come” is parroted at every minor calamity.
The bewildered working-class scousers are thrust into an alien world of servants, strange African customs, unintelligible accents, and unexpected wild life (‘crocodiles’ on the wall).
Their uneasy interactions with Zulu servants, Afrikaner neighbours, and foreign officialdom exposes their naivety, but they each learn to cope in their own individual way; Mavis overcoming homesickness by hugging the knowledge that when Frank’s contract ends they can return home; Gerry’s sullen resentment giving way to love of the outdoor life, and Frank masking his own doubts with blustering optimism and bantering sarcasm.
Having overcome culture shock, the arrival of Mavis’s parents introduces a divided loyalty when Gert and Walter’s National Health glasses and ill-fitting dentures are seen through the eyes of the Turner’s new South African friends. And when Mavis’s sister ‘our Treesa’ and her opinionated husband Clive visit, Mavis surprises herself by hotly defending SA.
The turning point comes when the family return to Liverpool for a holiday. Gerry has outgrown his former feral friends, Mavis realises she is now an expat; a misfit in her former home, and Frank has fresh misgivings about their future.
If home means a sense of belonging –where do the Turners belong?
Set back in 1988, this follows the story of working class Scouser Frank, his wife Mavis and 15 year old Gerry as they move from Liverpool to Durban, South Africa. This light hearted book was an easy read and kept me amused. There are many funny moments as they adjust to life in Durban and discover that in fact it’s not the jungle, but that it’s certainly not Liverpool either. ‘We never shoulda come’ is spoken often by Mavis in response to all manner of calamities, major and minor.
They make friends, adjust to the heat and get used to having hired help. The visits’ of both Mavis’ parents, and later her sister ‘our Teresa’ and her husband Clive, find Mavis surprising herself as she begins to defend South Africa and their new life. A visit back to England ends up causing both Mavis and Frank to rethink their decisions and confront their true feelings about where ‘home’ really is. Having lived abroad and experienced this for myself, I would have loved the author to have explored the daily struggles of adapting to a new culture more deeply. I do feel that the characters lacked some depth which this could have addressed. It would have also been lovely to have gotten a greater sense of what Durban was like when they arrived; the sounds, sights and smells which I didn’t really feel I experienced.
Verdict: As a Kindle purchase costing me less than a pound this was an easy and enjoyable read but not necessarily one I’d pick up again.
Reviewed by Lesley
Created by master storyteller, Mick Inkpen, there is a whole range of “Kipper” books to choose from: classic picture books, TV tie in picture books, novelty board books, sticker books, pop up books and much much more.
Kipper and Tiger find a kitten stuck in a conker tree, and attempt to get it down again.
Kipper is always popular in our house and this story is a current favourite for our youngest (17mths). These board book format “Little Kippers” have a simple story and are perfect for the little reader. She really likes being able to hold the book herself and can turn the pages (not always at the right time, I might add, and some pages are more popular than others!).
The concept of this story really appeals to Sienna as she understands what it means to be “stuck” somewhere. The light-hearted twist at the end has provoked comment from her older sister, who is now old enough to really understand the story. She also likes counting the conkers with Tiger.
The illustrations are lovely, clear, water-coloured drawings, and Kipper can be found, and pointed at, on most pages. If he isn’t there, one of his friends will be. They are closely related to the story and make it easy to follow even if the understanding of words is limited.
Verdict: As always, Kipper appeals to everyone, and this is another great addition to your Kipper collection.
Reviewed by Helen
Helen: I love audio books too, listened to loads myself, but also great in the car for the kids! Makes a great change from nursery rhymes!