Showing posts with label paranormal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label paranormal. Show all posts

Monday, 7 January 2019


Misrule by Jodi McAlister (Penguin Books, 2019) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN9780143793465

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is the third book in McAlister’s Valentine series, the other two being Valentine and Ironheart. With the words ‘This is not a fairytale’ on the front cover, the book is nevertheless filled with magic and could best be described as paranormal.

Pearl Langford’s boyfriend Finn, who is a magical fairy prince, is kidnapped by his older brother and whisked away to fulfil his destiny in their fairy kingdom. Of course, Pearl is not impressed and decides on a boyfriend rescue mission, as would any girl in love. She has told Finn she would come to get him, and she will not allow anyone to stand in her way. This involves tearing a hole in the universe and possible deaths of others, and, the question is, does Finn want to be saved?

The opening sentence is memorable: ‘One thing I never knew about grief is that it was exhausting.’ This is narrated by Pearl who has undergone the deaths of her mother, her grandmother and her friend Marie ‘killed and eaten by carnivorous water monsters’, the after-effects she has witnessed. 

Here are words from the book: ‘...she’s lying on the kitchen floor, covered in horrible rivers of blood, splatters and streams of red all over the cabinets like the most horrifying children’s painting ever, and a gash in her neck so deep I’m amazed her head is even still attached to her body.’ 

Yes, McAliser writes extremely well, but be prepared for vivid descriptions such as this one!

Described as ‘unputdownable’, Misrule is an adventure story, a mix of action, romance and wit, and is highly suitable for a YA readership.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Shiver the Whole Night Through

Shiver the Whole Night Through by Darragh McManus (Hot Key Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-1-4714-0409-2
Reviewed by Jacque Duffy

Wow, what a powerful book. As the cover suggests the story is a little dark and ‘edge of seat’, the first chapter had me wondering just what I had picked up, so I took a deep breath, and continued reading. I soon discovered I couldn't put it down.

I normally am not a reader of paranormal, and confess to not realizing that’s what this story is at first, but I read late into the night, turning pages in a way that would have gratified the author. His writing transported me to a very unnerving place in Ireland (the guide to pronunciation of Gaelic words also helped take me there). If my experience is anything to go by, genre preference has little to do with captivating a reader.

The story begins with a boy about to end his life and the death of a school friend, uplifting, not really, but not depressing as I thought it would be. The story touches on Irish history and folklore and has some very surprising twists and turns making it a book that is difficult to put down.

Darragh McManus is an author, journalist, playwright, and screenwriter. Shiver the Whole Night Through is his first YA book. He has previously published two crime novels and a comic novel.

The book if read in a senior classroom situation would raise healthy discussion. I found it thought provoking, the serious matters of suicide, bullying, revenge, and peer pressure, are raised in this story. The characters are fully formed and each supports the main character well.

The story gives room for sequels and I am sure each would be an enjoyable read, in fact, I see a movie.
Jacque Duffy is the author and illustrator of picture book The Bear Said Please and the series ‘That’s not a …” learn to read books used in all Queensland State Primary Schools and one local history coffee table book.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic Inc)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-0-545– 42492-9
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Maggie Stiefvater is a well known and popular YA author. She has written many books for teens with a gothic flavour, packed with paranormal activity and fantasy. The Raven Boys is the first of a new trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and is engrossing and addictive. The author’s writing is mesmerising at times, creating an uneasy atmosphere in places, drifting into events in sly tendrils, creeping around people and place with increasing intensity until you suddenly realise the storyline is being choked by it. It is easy to sink into this book and just let the enchantment of the words carry you away.

Blue Sargent is the daughter of a psychic. Although she has not inherited any of her family’s psychic abilities, her gift is to amplify the energy and magic of those near her.  And she believes wholeheartedly in her fate, that if she kisses her true love he will die. Partly because of this, Blue avoids boys in general, but she takes special care to also avoid the Raven Boys, students from the local private school Aglionby. However, after her mother specifically forbids her from becoming involved with Gansey, Ronan, Noah and Adam and their quest, she is drawn towards the foursome and their search for ley lines and Glendower, the Sleeping King.

The characters in this book are well rounded with depth and complexity. The dialogue is natural and convincing. Even some of the more elusive characters such as Persephone and Calla are tangible and intriguing.

Nothing is straight forward and simple, but the subplots add to the twists rather than distract the reader from the main storyline. There are so many delicious moments when something unexpected happens, but with hindsight all seems obvious and makes perfect sense. The relationships and bonds the teens have, both healthy and destructive, are skilfully painted as is the relationship they each have to the woods, where the seasons change as they walk through and the trees whisper in Latin.

It is easy to see why this author is a favourite with teens and young adults. The Raven Boys has all the elements of an entertaining story. It is wonderfully gothic, with the drama of adolescence, forbidden romance, mystery, psychic predictions, ghosts, obsession, compulsion, a quest and an ending that promises more to come. But with all this magic and drama, it doesn’t lose sight of the importance of family. Much of the characters motivations come from these bonds, and the family ties, or lack of, that reach out to affect their lives, decisions and fate.

The end does not resolve the story but it is satisfying.  Although not exactly a cliff hanger, it leaves many questions unanswered with the last sentence creating much anticipation for the next book in the series. It is a long book for YA reading, over 400 pages, but I found it easy and quick to read as I became so involved with the people and story.

Maggie Stiefvater is an author I have heard much about but had never read. From my first glimpse of the fabulous cover- a bold raven with wings outspread, painted in feathery brush strokes - I was intrigued, and happily followed Stiefvater’s words to see where love and death would lead the characters and me. I will definitely be reading more.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Out for Blood

Out for Blood by Kristen Painter (Orbit/ Little, Brown/Hachette)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9780356502106
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

Vampires, fallen angels, ghosts, and shifters are integral to the House of Comarré Series of which this book is the fourth. The urban fantasy revolves around a race of humans bred to feed vampire nobility, called comarrés.
Chrysabelle, a commaré, has been ordered by the Kubai Mata to rescue a child kidnapped by the leaders of the vampires, otherwise Mal, who is very close to her, will be regarded as enemy number one. Lola, the mayor, whose deceased daughter is the mother of the stolen child, also wants the child in her clutches. She declares a curfew in Paradise City in the hope of controlling the othernatural population. In so doing, Doc, a close friend of Chrysabelle and Mal is captured. Mal risks death in saving him, and Chrysabelle, in turn, goes to his rescue. She has powers she does not understand but they have given her the ability to return to life after dying. Chrysabelle is relying on these powers to aid her in the recapture of the child, Lilith, and also to rescue Damian, the brother she has been searching for.
Not having read the previous books, I was bewildered by the lack of retrospective detail to grasp the storyline, especially as it abounds in fantasy words equal to my knowledge of Russian - zilch! However, a small reference list at the rear of the novel did provide some answers and the intriguing scenario in the opening pages encourages going with the flow.
For a start, I liked the name choices, three of which seem to be derived by the omission of one letter, e.g., Chrysabelle (Chrystabelle?) Jerem (Jeremy?) Maddoc (Maddock?) but also disliked her use of three names beginning with D which made me have to rethink who these characters were. But it is the author's prolific details of the emotional and physical responses of a vampire which is fascinating, along with the unreal abilities of other supernaturals. Painter's imagination expands way beyond the basic point that vampires drink blood. It is as if she opens a window into their private world. There is also a glamorous touch to her work.
Although I found the dialogue to be stilted in parts and sometimes there was a tendency to over-explain, Painter shows expertise in creating gripping action, and the passionate scenes stop short of the graphic, strengthening the romance factor. 

I found the normal human elements - cars, chocolates, city buildings etc. grounded this near-future story but wondered about the use of laudanum to inhibit the victims a little at odds with the magical elements which Painter conjures up. Why not call the drug something else? But perhaps this, too, was to give the readers a name they would readily understand, albeit one from over a century ago.

There is more for fantasy fans to look forward to in this entertaining series. Watch for Last Blood.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Feedback by D L Richardson (Etopia Press)
EBook RRP 5.99 Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo
ISBN 978-1-937976-77-4
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Dylan is a CIA agent working undercover as a biochemist for a pharmaceutical company. He is on a mission to deactivate three biochemical weapons when he is killed in a car accident. Dylan’s spirit cannot rest until the mission is complete.

Ethan, Florida, and Jake are teenage victims of a pharmaceutical experiment. They receive the gift of life through Dylan’s organs. But unknown to them, there will be a price to pay. Their lives change drastically, from indifference and bitterness, to a spiral of dangerous but exciting adventures and life-threatening situations.

The teenagers’ lives, family situations and feelings are exposed through each one’s point of view, from chapter to chapter. This builds the backstory and increases the tension in the book.

The three are kidnapped soon after their transplants by Shay, an operative that works for Hank, the owner of the pharmaceutical company. Hank is an advocate of Feedback, ‘the theory that the organ recipient will take on the memories of the organ donor’. He tortures them with the intention that they will reveal the whereabouts of the hidden weapons. But they have no understanding of cellular memory, or of the danger they are in until Dylan’s ghost mind-melds with Ethan and another curve in the story takes place.

In a race against time, Ethan, Florida and Jake must learn to trust one another, and work together to complete Dylan’s mission before hundreds of thousands of people fall victim to Hank’s catastrophic plans to spread disease for money making purposes.

This is an exciting and fast-paced book with an original story line. D L Richardson has shaped the story extremely well to retain the reader’s interest from beginning to end. It has an open-ending, perhaps with a sequel in mind.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Until I Die

Until I Die Until I Die by Amy Plum (Atom/Little, Brown/Hachette)
PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 9781907411038
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

Amy Plum has followed her stunning paranormal story, Die for Me (read review here) with a second book which deepens the Parisian romance between Kate Mercier and her revenant boyfriend, Vincent Delacroix and plunges further into the mystery surrounding his supernatural world. Once again the cover is beautifully crafted and mega-appealing.

Revenants have an irresistible urge to die after saving a human life, but Kate, with her misery over her parents' deaths the previous year still fresh, finds it appalling that Vincent has to repeatedly die, even though he will slowly resurrect by the third day. When Kate decides she would rather be alone than to be attached to someone who will die over and over again, Vincent makes a vow to her that he will do his utmost to resist the compulsion. This goes against every fibre of his "unbeing", the urge equating to a drug addiction.

Vincent spends time apart from Kate in search of a solution, but it is evident that whatever he is doing is knocking him about physically. His strength is waning, he has dark circles under his eyes and mysterious bruising. He won't reveal to Kate what is the cause behind it, so Kate decides she will do her own research and investigating to come up with a better, less gruelling answer.

Two new revenant characters, Arthur and Violette, aristocrats who died in their early teens around 1500 have prominent roles in the story. They have come from their medieval castle in the Loire Valley to help the leader of Paris' revenants, Jean-Baptiste, develop strategies against the numa, the enemies of revenants. Because of their huge experience over the centuries, and also Violette's expertise on revenant history, they are very highly regarded by the other revenants. However, Georgia, Kate's sister dislikes Violette intensely and Kate is wary of Arthur. One sister will be proved right. In the meantime, Violette befriends Kate and wins her confidence while Georgia is hoping Arthur will fall for her.

Although the story opens with Kate practising defence exercises in case of a numa attack which occurs soon after, the progress of the story is fairly pedestrian for a good third of the book, although there are lots of kisses and romantic moments between the two protagonists which no doubt will delight the target age group. 
Nevertheless, interest is definitely whetted by the many questions requiring answers and by Kate's personal quest unfolding. She is unaware of how dangerous her mission is, but it is soon clear she is antagonising the enemy. She has discovered someone who could help Vincent, and the numas are aware of it.

As Until I Die heads towards conclusion, the pace is dramatically increased and readers will not be able to turn the pages fast enough. Surprises are in store and the ending confronting. I think Amy Plum has more to tell us about the paranormals of Paris.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Hunting Lila

Hunting Lila
Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson (Simon and Schuster)
BB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-085707195-8
Reviewed by Peta Biggin

Seventeen-year-old Lila has two secrets she’s prepared to take to the grave.  The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she’s in love with her brother’s best friend, Alex.  Alex, and Lila’s brother Jack, live in Southern California where they work for a secret military organisation called the Unit. After Lila’s powers are exposed in her home town, she decides to run away to be with them – the only people she can trust.  She learns that they are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they’ve found them. She also discovers that she is not alone – there are others with special powers and her mother’s killer is among them.

Despite Lila’s abilities, the first part of the book does not contain a large proportion of fantasy.  We get to know the characters and see the dynamics between them.  Lila is wilful and passionate; Jack is somewhat introverted and very protective of Lila; Alex is confident, flirty and also protective of Lila.  

There are a lot of secrets being kept in the half of the novel.  Lila is trying to keep her feelings for Alex hidden from Jack; the truth about her powers hidden from everyone; while Jack and Alex are trying to keep the reality of their work from Lila.  As these secrets are exposed, the action really starts to kick off and the powers of Lila and those like her become a greater part of the novel.  The unravelling of the stories that each character has built around them also allows for some terrific twists as the plot unfolds. 

Thankfully, Lila’s love for Alex does not go unrequited.  Romance blossoms between the two, much to Jack’s unease.  It is not a straightforward journey for them, though.  Despite being a bit of a romantic, I was happy to see that this aspect of the story was not allowed to overwhelm the rest of the book.

Overall, I found Hunting Lila, to be a great read.  With action, fantasy and romance it’s certain to appeal to a wide audience (both teenagers and teenagers at heart).

Before becoming a full-time writer, Sarah Alderson worked in the not-for-profit sector.  Originally from London, she currently lives in Bali with her husband and daughter.  The sequel, Losing Lila, is due for release later this year.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Maya and the Crystal Skull

Maya and the Crystal Skull by Robyn Opie Parnell (R&R Books Film Music)
PB RRP: $19.95
ISBN: 9781873671009
Reviewed by Zoya Nojin

Although Robyn Opie Parnell has had over eighty books published, this is her first foray into a longer novel for middle grade readers and it displays a ‘new direction’ to her writing. Her enthusiasm for her thoughts on the ‘spiritual connectedness with reality’ pervades this story which starts with the main character, Maya learning about ‘universal consciousness’ from a spirit boy as she deals with the loss of her mother.

When Maya discovers that her father is in danger in Mexico, she must travel there with her spirit guide to rescue him while trying to elude a mysterious villain and recover ancient crystal skulls. She soon learns of the skulls’ significance to the future of humankind and that her destiny is intertwined with them.

Written in the first person, Maya’s thoughts and discussions of the spiritual can slow the pace a little while her guide explains how ‘everything in the world is connected’. But the teen voices are realistic, it is easy to read and there is enough action and plenty of dialogue to keep the story moving. Readers will love to hate Sophia, Maya’s minder and enjoy the thrill of the chase through jungles and Mayan ruins.

The cover will whet the appetite for adventure with its gleaming crystal skull staring out over a fiery ancient temple. As this book is the first in a series, one can presume there will be more adventures to come in seeking crystal skulls, with further insights into how Maya’s future is linked to them.

Maya and the Crystal Skull is being marketed as a ‘paranormal thriller for children aged 8+’.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The e-book process

Today at Buzz Words Books we have our first guest author post. YA author D L Richardson gives personal insights into the e-book process. You can read an expanded version of this article in the 1 December 2011 issue of Buzz Words.

There’s good and bad things said about e-books. My favourite quote doing the rounds is this one: “The good thing about e-books is that anyone can publish one. The bad this is that anyone can publish one.” It’s an accurate sentiment and one that I’d take seriously if I hadn’t read a lot of trash in print format. 
So what is it about the e-book that’s so darned appealing? Is it because in this current economic climate they’re cheap to produce? Is it because in this current environmental climate a rainforest can be saved by not printing a book? Or has this sudden boom in e-books sales got to with something else, say, the coming of a new revolution?

It’s no surprise the e-book is popular. Aspiring authors who have grown tired of mainstream publishers locking the doors on their creativity have at last found the means to produce and sell their work. For many, the e-book is about empowerment. I was fortunate enough to get a contract with an e-book publisher so I haven’t had to do my own editing, cover design or distribution. But is empowerment enough to push the print book out altogether? After all, DVD replaced VHS. Motion pictures replaced silent films. Cars replaced horse and cart.

Once upon a time the only way to travel was through a travel agent. The internet empowered the consumer but we still have travel agents. We’ll probably still have mainstream publishers because empowerment is a powerful thing. But expertise is equally powerful. 

D L Richardson is the author of Young Adult paranormal novel The Bird With The Broken Wing. She is currently working on her second novel.

You can read an extract of D L Richardson’s debut novel The Bird With The Broken Wing at Kobo Books. 

You can purchase The Bird With The Broken Wing at Etopia Press,, Barnes &Noble, Kobo Books, and OmniLit 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Witch Hunter Chronicles 2: The Army of The Undead

The Witch Hunter Chronicles 2: The Army of The Undead by Stuart Daly (Random House)
PB RRP $17.95
ISBN 978-1-7427-5052-2
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

If Jakob thought his first mission was tough, he ain’t seen nothing yet. Jakob and the Hexanjager tackle the ruthless Watchers in the second book of the Witch Hunter Chronicles series.

The Watchers are fallen angels, able to resurrect anyone, including a prophet who has hidden the Tablet of Breaking, capable of starting Armageddon. It’s a race to see who can recover the Tablet first. Jakob is joined by many new characters, including the feisty Francesca who has attracted the eye of Jakob’s ally, Armand. There are some great scenes where the two are sparring with their words.

Daly develops the relationship between Jakob and Armand really well. Jakob looks up to him and they share many battles. They stand out in a large cast. Jakob is growing as a character too. He’s got a knack of getting out of trouble that will keep readers on the edge. Jakob also shows off his mental strength too.

Everything in this sequel is bigger and better. The relentless zombies are led by the creepy Watchers who are hard to kill. Daly takes us everywhere from Greece to a booby trapped mausoleum under the Dead Sea. There are shades of Matthew Reilly as Daly allows the action to roll on continuously.  

You can tell Daly’s a history teacher. This is a rich world that features many weapons and locations from the real world. It’s no historical fiction, more like historical thriller. Daly’s included some notes at the end of the book.

The Army of the Undead piles on the action, giving fans a reason to look forward to next pulsing adventure. Recommended for ages 10 and up.  

Friday, 15 April 2011


Thyla by Kate Gordon (Random House)
HB RRP $17.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1881-2
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Thyla is a novel for teenagers and essentially an Aussie paranormal story, cut from the same cloth as Twilight but without the melancholy romance.

Tessa is a girl, found in the Tasmanian bush, without any memories. She’s taken care of by a policewoman, Connolly and placed into a boarding school. Connolly lost her own daughter in the bush, so it’s an emotional time for both her and Tessa.

Gordon does a wonderful job in drip-feeding information as the narrator Tessa regains her memory. Seasoned readers will be able to pick up on the clues straight away. It quickly becomes obvious that Tessa is not from this time and there’s a little humour as she learns how to adapt and cope with things like cars and stereo speakers. So Tessa is a freak and she gets churned through the gossip machine and social hierarchy. She also has to re-discover her own original state with animal instincts that take over her life. 
Gordon comes up with a convincing tale that weaves Australian colonial history into the mix. It’s a refreshing take from other paranormal novels, where readers just have to assume that these ‘creatures’ exist. The last third of the novel may just be a set up for the sequel, but it’s an intriguing one nonetheless.

Thyla is a great novel that will please paranormal fans. It’s recommended for ages 13 and up.       

Monday, 11 April 2011

Burn Bright

Burn Bright by Marianne de Pierres (Random House)
HB RRP $18.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1988-8
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Burn Bright is a novel for teenagers, a gothic and paranormal novel with clubbing overtones. Yep, welcome to Ixion, an island that is similar to Ibiza, full of raves, parties and music.

It’s a place of pleasure that doesn’t bode well with Retra. She’s a Seal-think highly conservative religious cult and you’re halfway there-who’s just escaped to track down her rebellious brother. She’s followed him to Ixion, where outcasts get to party all night literally because it lies in forever darkness.

But there’s got to be a catch right? Ixion are guarded by Ripers, and people on the island eventually ‘disappear’ as they get older. Sounds like the real-life clubbing scene then. Retra’s determination to find her brother gets her mixed up in the politics of the island. And its secrets are messy.

There’s a tinge of erotica through the descriptions, modesty is a sin on Ixion and Retra finds herself half-naked on more than one occasion. But it doesn’t go overboard. You really have to suspend belief to get into this nocturnal world. de Pierres makes it easy though, with solid suspense throughout. The story never stands still for long.

Retra’s nerdy and naïve personality works here because like the reader, she sees past the superficiality of parties and pleasure mantra of the island. Give Burn Bright a chance and you’ll be immersed in its dark world. It’s recommended for ages 13 and up.