Vampire Shift by Tim O’Rourke.

11824848Kiera Hudson Series One, Book One

Kindle Edition

Published June 6th 2011 by Ravenwoodgreys

Kiera is a twenty year old constable, literally just out of the academy. She’s just been offered a position in The Ragged Cove, with an extra yearly bonus and free lodging. Cops don’t seem to last very long at The Ragged Cove, but Kiera isn’t deterred. She’s a talented young constable with a talent for ‘seeing’ things – clues and stuff that other police officers usually don’t notice straight away.

Once at The Cove, Kiera learns about a string of horrific murders – twenty over the past three years – and even investigates one on her very first night. Her fellow workers seem callous and mocking, all except for the good looking Luke Bishop – who is the closest thing that Kiera has to a friend, even if he isn’t always reliable.

Everywhere Kiera goes in The Ragged Cove, there are strange references to vampires. The bar/hotel where she’s staying has garlic strung up everywhere and bottles of holy water and crucifixes for sale.  She doesn’t think much of it, but as weird things keep happening to her, she forced to start believing.

Vampire Shift is a nice quick read that is very fast paced. The plot has more twists than you can poke a stick at and there is a great, creepy atmosphere. The town seems to be cut off completely from the outside world.

The ‘romance’ is nothing to write home about, but there’s plenty of other stuff to make up for it. The characters are all very quirky and/or creepy and mysterious – everyone seems off at one point or another.

As for Kiera’s gift of ‘seeing’ things – it’s kind of like in Psych, the way Shaun Spencer notices everything and puts clues together really well. Only Kiera does it all at once without really noticing and isn’t dramatic about it like Shaun (how great is Psych, by the way? It’s one of my favourite shows). It’s sort of a supernatural power, really.

I will definitely continue reading this series.

My rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads Rating: 3.95/5

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Playing Tyler by TL Costa.

17262812Paperback, 304 pages

Published July 2nd 2013 by Strange Chemistry

Tyler MacCandless is a senior with ADHD – he never takes his medication anymore and can’t focus on school stuff very well. He wants to fly in the air force, and is pretty good at all that math stuff. In his spare time, he’s a pretty heavy gamer.

His older brother Brandon is a junkie in rehab, and Tyler’s mum tries not to think about that too much, leaving Tyler with the responsibility of caring. Their role reversals are kind of switched, Tyler and Brandon, making it seem like Tyler is the older, protective brother. He can’t imagine being somewhere that Brandon isn’t, because he worries so much about who would care about B if he ever left.

Rick is Tyler’s mentor. They’ve known each other for years. One day he asks Tyler to test a new video game – a drone flight simulator. If he’s good at it, it could make all his dreams come true. But soon enough, it becomes clear that there is something not quite right about the game – it’s a little too real. When Brandon goes missing and one of his old friends contacts Tyler, it all gets even more ominous.

Meanwhile, Ana – the teenage gamer girl who designed the game – and Tyler have a cute, burgeoning romance, which just happens to be forbidden because of Ana’s contract with Rick’s company – she isn’t supposed to contact any of the simulator gamers ever again after she’s set up the game for them.

Soon, Ana and Tyler are both in a lot of danger …

When is a game not a game?

I didn’t find Playing Tyler earth shatteringly amazing, but I did really like it. I found it so easy to get into because of Tyler’s ADHD and the way that his perspective is written. Because he finds it hard to concentrate, the writing is kind of jumpy, without a lot of punctuation. I know that some people would find this annoying or hard to read, but I actually loved it. I think that it helped me form a bond with Tyler that much faster.

Ana is really likeable too. She’s a sixteen year old gamer whiz kid who designed a really popular video game before she designed the simulator. Rick helped her get into Yale really early and she’s employed by his company to help pay for tuition. She’s a bit of an outcast with other students, and like Tyler, hasn’t had much romantic experience. Part of the novel is from Ana’s perspective, but it’s mostly Tyler’s. Anyway, their relationship is really sweet. 

I guess you would call this a gamer thriller. Like I say, it’s not earth shattering, but it’s definitely a good read. Give it a go if you like technology/gamer/thriller type books.

I’ve been checking out these Strange Chemistry books and they all seem really cool and quite inexpensive. They’ve only been around since 2012, I think. Here’s the website.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

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Paperback, 399 pages

Published August 30, 1993 by Ballantine

IBSN: 9780345370778

We all know the storyline of the movie: eccentric rich guy and dinosaur enthusiast John Hammond (and his team of scientists) have discovered a way to clone dinosaurs, using blood from mosquitoes that were caught in tree sap and fossilised. He creates a theme park on a secluded island. A team of specialists are assembled to check out this park before it’s opening. Unfortunately, things turn deadly. . .

The book is essentially the same, but much better (as is often the case with adaptations). I’ve seen the movie tonnes of times, but there were still plenty of surprises in the novel. There were even a few scenes in here that the second and third movie used.

Most of the characters are pretty much the same. Hammond, however, is a little different. More of a bad guy – kind of. Pretty naive, too. I think that Ian Malcolm is my favourite character. He’s always making these drawn out monologues about the pitfalls of Jurassic Park and the lack of discipline Hammond and his team have.

The dinosaurs are really cool, also. It’s interesting reading about the different species and their characteristics. The velociraptors are terrifying – even more so than in the film.

This is a fun, science filled thriller. Definitely check it out.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

Paperback, 335 pages

Published June 2nd 2009 by Simon & Schuster Children’s

IBSN: 9781847382313

The Second Civil War, also known as “The Heartland War,” was a long and bloody conflict fought over a single issue. To end the war, a set of constitutional amendments known as “The Bill of Life” was passed. It satisfied both the Pro-life and the Pro-choice armies. The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively “abort” a child . . . on the condition that the child’s life doesn’t “technically” end. The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called “unwinding.” Unwinding is now a common, and accepted practice in society.

Connor, Risa and Lev are three unwinds on the run, all three from different backgrounds. Connor is ‘troubled,’ and his parents chose to have him unwound. Risa is a ward of the state, and she has used up all the time they are willing to give her. Lev is the last of ten children, and his parents are tithing him.

Unwind is an amazing novel. There are many dimensions to the world Neal Shusterman created. It is all very well thought out, in my opinion. This was my second reading – my copy of the second book is in the post and I wanted to refresh my memory – and it was just as great the second time.

To be more graphic, unwinding is a surgical process where every part of your body is harvested. You are kept alive during the process, for legal purposes. Because you don’t technically die during this procedure, and all your parts get transplanted into other people, it’s believed that you are still alive, but in a different way.

Because there are so many extra organs and other body parts due to unwinding, medical ailments aren’t fixed anymore, you just have that body part replaced. Had a heart attack? Here’s a new heart. Gone bald? Have this luscious hair. Missing a limb? No problem, we have plenty of those lying around. This is the blasé attitude that surgeons (they’re pretty much all surgeons now) have.

It’s a terrifying, unbelievable concept. But this is a dystopia. And these people have been fed the ‘you will still be technically alive’ line so often, they truly believe it. Having teens unwound is actually an okay thing to do in this world. But then, what about the soul? And your conscious? Unwind really gets you thinking.

There’s so much other stuff in here too: Juvey-cops, uploading, Humpty Dunfee, clappers, storking, betrayal, murder, love, sacrifice, hope. Go and grab a copy of Unwind right away to find out what it all means!

Erebos by Ursula Poznanski.

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Paperback, 418 pages

Translated by Judith Pattinson

Published March, 2012 by Allen & Unwin

IBSN: 9781742379531

A heap of kids at Nick’s school have started acting very strange. They are exhausted, often skip class or extracurricular activities and act secretive and vaguely paranoid. No one will explain what’s going on. Nick is in the dark until a school mate gives him a DVD on the proviso that he keeps it absolutely secret. On the DVD is a computer game called Erebos.

Immediately, Nick is hooked on the realistic fantasy game. He eagerly works at moving his avatar higher up the ranks by slaying mythical creatures within the game and running errands for the Messenger outside of the game. Once he has been given instructions to complete in the real world, the game will not open for him until they are completed. Nick doesn’t understand the point of the strange things that the game asks him to do, but they seem innocent enough. That is, until all of a sudden, they don’t.

I am rubbish at playing video games. I used to play around with GTA, stealing cars, annoying the Triads and mowing down pedestrians for their money, but I could never complete any of the harder missions – that’s about the limit of my gaming abilities. Still, I can enjoy watching other people play video games. And gamer type books – like Ready Player One or Epic – really seem to appeal to me. I haven’t read many, but I like what I have read (any suggestions of other books in the same vein would be appreciated!). Erebos puts plenty of focus on the gaming aspect – we probably spend as much time with Nick’s avatar as we do with him. So if you aren’t into long game scenes, maybe this isn’t for you. But for me, I was as addicted to reading this book as Nick is to Erebos – I loved it!

The main goal in Erebos is to advance to such a point that you can become one of the Inner Circle – a small group who will go on to fight the big boss when the time comes. But the higher up you get, the more menacing your real world tasks are.  And the deeper Nick gets into it, the more his morals get stuffed up. He will blindly do whatever is asked of him so that he can keep playing the game.

The Messenger – a foreboding, sinister, seemingly omnipresent chap – also asks a lot of questions about people at Nick’s school. It’s so creepy, the way he knows everyone, and shocking that Nick is so quick to divulge information to him in order to advance in the game. Such is it’s addicting power.

I thought that Erebos was done so well. I loved the inclining intensity of the plot. Check it it for some chills and thrills.

The Industry by Rose Foster.

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Paperback, 312 pages

Published March 20th, 2012 by HarperCollins Australia

IBSN: 9780732293307

But Kirra wasn’t listening. “But . . . but when are you taking me home?” she spluttered.

“If you are good and you help us, there is the possibility of some day being reunited with your family.”

Kirra’s throat seemed to close up. Her chest felt as though it was collapsing, as though she were being crushed beneath several tonnes of concrete.

“Some day?” she choked quietly, a single, traitorous tear threatening to spill. “If I’m good?”

Kirra Hayward – a sixteen year old Australian school girl – is doing homework when she stumbles upon a website called ‘Crack the Code!’. Somehow, in a way that even she cannot describe, she does indeed crack that code. But after an anti-climatic submission of her answer, she more or less forgets about it. That is, until one week later, when strange men kidnap her, drug her and fly her to somewhere in the northern hemisphere.

The men are a part of a worldwide crime syndicate  – ‘contractors’ available to hire for any purpose you wish – called the Industry.

Left alone in a cell until the men need her to unlock more codes, Kirra waits in vain for someone to come for her. When she refuses to crack the strange Spencer Code, Latham – the leader of her captors – is more than happy to persuade her using torturous methods.

Soon enough, Kirra finds herself sharing the cell with a young English man, who is also able to crack the Spencer Code. After forming an alliance, they plot their escape.

It isn’t until Kirra does escape that she discovers just how large the Industry actually is, and how important her role in their world is. She is a much sought after commodity – being one of only four people in the world known to be able to translate the Spencer Code – and getting home is looking like more of an impossibility every day.

“You know, I really don’t think you have an appropriate appreciation of the scope of the Industry. It’s organised. It’s old. It has regulations, rules, traditions and resources. We need no one but ourselves.”

What a surprise The Industry turned out to be. It is compelling, exciting and very easy to get into. Rose Foster is a great new talent – I cannot wait for the rest of this series.

Kirra is  bit of an outcast. She studies maths and science at a grade two years above her own and doesn’t really have or want any close friends at school. She lives with her well meaning parents, sweet little brother and insufferable younger sister – and doesn’t fit in that well at home either. Of course, when she is taken she is desperate to get back to them.

I found it quite intense reading the beginning because Kirra is so sure that her family or the police are going to come for her, and you just know that that’s not the case. Her captors are professional Industry members who make people disappear for a living – a teenage girl will be no problem for them.

I liked Kirra as a main character – she is brave, mature and level headed. And as the plot expands, you see her evolving and changing into a different version of herself. There are lots of other characters too, who are introduced in chunks throughout the novel – though it never becomes too much for the reader.

I would recommend this to any fans of young adult fiction who like a bit of action, thrills and globetrotting.

Slide by Jill Hathaway.

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Paperback, 250 pages
Published March 1st, 2012
IBSN: 9780007446377

Vee Bell was diagnosed with narcolepsy years ago. Which, as it turns out, is not cute and hilarious – think Rowan Atkinson in Ratrace – but basically like passing out. But here’s the thing about Vee’s narcolepsy: when she passes out, she finds herself in someone else’s head, seeing what they see. She calls it ‘sliding’ and she’s never really thought of it as more than a hindrance.

I can never get used to the feeling of looking through someone else’s eyes. It’s as if each person sees the world in a slightly different hue. The tricky part is figuring out who the person is. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle – what do I see, hear, smell? Everything is a clue.

Sliding isn’t just random, Vee has to be touching something that the person she slides into has imprinted on emotionally. Nobody knows. When Vee tried to tell her dad, she got psych sessions. Her best friend Rollins thinks that she has severe OCD. She is all alone with her big secret and everyone else’s icky little secrets that she is unwillingly privy to.

Until the night of the cheerleaders death, Vee didn’t think her gift could be of any real use. Everyone says that the cheerleader killed herself, but Vee was there – behind the eyes of the killer – and she is the only one who knows that it was murder. Now, despite the police being involved, she is determined to find the real culprit. She already has a few suspects . . .

Slide is Jill Hathaway’s first novel and I enjoyed her writing style. Vee is a likeable character who has had to deal with some horrible stuff, both in her actual life and the things she witnesses when she slides. She seems real and her gift was always written about in a believable way.

As well as the thriller aspect of things, you also have a little romance, a couple of mean girls and some family dynamics thrown in. My only issue with the plot was with the resolution of the killer. I think it was maybe too easy, a little too neat. But for a novel that’s only two hundred and fifty pages long, that’s okay.

I am a little dubious about this being a series – especially if all the books are about Vee tracking down murderers. It’s one of those situations where I think: how many times can one high school girl realistically run into psychopaths? I had similar feelings about the Body Finder series, but that power is different because it has everything to do with dead bodies, unlike Vee’s. But I will have to hold judgement until I have read them. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see Vee develop her gift – and the newfound aspects of her ability.

Read this young adult thriller if you enjoyed The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting or Switch by Carol Snow. If you feel like going the extra mile, throw on some nineties music – Oasis, Pearl Jam, Nirvana – to match Vee’s tastes.