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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…

“Virals” is the beginning of a new series by Kathy Reich, forensic scientist and author of the Temperance Brennan novels. The book stars fourteen year old Tory Brennan, great niece of forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. Tory lives on a small island near Charleston with her marine biologist father, a man that she only found out existed when her mother died less than a year ago. Whilst she and her three friends are visiting the research island where her father works, Tory meets a family of wolf-dogs; when one of the pack goes missing, she decides to investigate and ends up with a lot more than she bargained for, including a 40 year old murder to solve and a mystery illness.

The book is written in the first person, and Tory makes an entertaining and witty narrator. This style of writing means that the reader very quickly finds out a lot about her and the way she thinks, her background, and, in particular, how intelligent she is.

The paranormal twist in the tale occurs when Tory and her friends contract a newly developed and untested virus from one of the wolf-dogs, and are left with super-sensory powers. These abilities bind the group together as a ‘pack’, and come in particularly handy if you need to sniff out the odd hidden skeleton.

I liked the way that Tory and her gang were all gifted in different areas and worked well together as a group, with Tory as a rather bossy leader! As Tory is only fourteen I thought it was appropriate that there was no real love story in the book, although she does have a small crush. In fact, the four teenagers are brilliant role models for the young adults reading this book – they don’t drink or do drugs, but they’re cool, fun, and work hard at school. I’ll admit they do a fair amount of breaking and entering, but it’s all in a very good cause!

“Virals” is Kathy Reich’s first book aimed at young adults, and I found that I really enjoyed it. I liked the way that this novel worked well as a stand-alone adventure – the plot is tidied away neatly at the end, but the characters are compelling, and it’s so intriguing to imagine where their new powers will lead them, that I’m sure most readers will be anxious for the next instalment. This really was a fantastic mystery, which kept me hanging on right till the end to discover exactly who was responsible for the crimes. The addition of a supernatural element only served to enhance it to my mind.

4 stars

So, it’s been well over a month since my last post, DISGRACEFUL I know, especially as I’ve been reading some brilliant books (unfortunately the majority of which are still in manuscript form so it’ll be a while before I review them). However, those of you that follow my twitter will know that I’ve been very busy with both work, having teeth pulled out and of course with my new found love (and now severe addiction) of Dexter – I’m on season three now, and while it’s not a patch on the first two seasons it’s certainly keeping me entertained. Plus, there’s the added bonus of seeing the beautiful Julie Benz on the screen again. Her character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel was one of the main reasons why I love vampire fiction so much.

BTVS was the first vampire television show I watched and to say I was addicted is an understatement as the next seven years of my life after seeing the pilot was spent devouring vampire television shows and fiction, writing fanfiction (cringe!) and my own original vampiric tales (cringe again!). I know that a lot of readers will perhaps turn their noses up at this, thinking that everyone needs to read the entire collection of Anne Rice as a pre-requiste for further vampire fiction, but that came later for me. I started off reading the Buffy spin off novels and then began to delve into the YA shelves of my local bookshop for other fangtastic treats!

Here are some of my paranormal favourites (yes, the Twilight series makes an appearance);

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Okay… so I read the buffy books with Sarah Michelle Gellar slapped on the cover, and not these delicious new editions coming out later this year, but I had to share this jacket with you! Perhaps a whole new host of fans will be introduced into the glorious world of vampiric fiction through these books, or perhaps as these do not look like they tie in with a series maybe people will see that the characterisation and story-telling is right up there with the big guns of the Young Adult section.

The books follows the adventures of Buffy, a teenge girl who is the chosen one, the one girl in all the world chosen by the powers that be to fight the vampires and demons of the world. She and her group of misfit friends learn about life, love and slaying through these books and to me – the Twilight phenomenan came directly from Buffy – so read these books!

Eclipse – Twilight Series – Stephenie Meyer

Eclipse was by far, my favourite of the Twilight Saga. I loved how it delved into the history of vampires, particularly Jasper’s, who was a character I didn’t know a lot about and really came into his own in this book. I love the triangle stuck in a tent – so perfectly angsty!! Eclipse had all of the action, romance and tension you could want in a book – it’s just a shame that Breaking Dawn didn’t live up to the promise of Eclipse.

Generation Dead – Dan Waters

So Generation Dead doesn’t have vampires… it’s got ZOMBIES!!! What I love about this book is the backstory… how suddenly teenagers were not staying dead. Instead of it being a secret and the zombies go into hiding like in many stories, in Generation Dead, the zombies try to be intregated back into society. Phoebe, the resident gothic misfit at her high school falls in love with a Zombie, much to the disgust of the rest of the school including her best friend, boy next door Adam.

I love zombie fiction, and I love how the subject is dealt with in Dan’s books. Definitely one to read if you like a bit of paranormal romance.

The House of Night Series – P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

I’m currently reading UNTAMED in this series, and while sometimes the characters and their indessant need to use ‘teenage language’ and references is starting to get on my nerves, I must say that the series as a whole has got me gripped! It’s an interesting take on vampires and I like how the book as a magical element to it. Zoey gets Marked and is sent to the House of Night, a school for fledglings to learn about the vampire world before they may the change.

Whilst not technically young adult, I would also like to highlight the Sookie Stackhouse series (now also a TV series, TRUE BLOOD) These are great, fun reads that again, look at the intregation of the undead into the living world.

Here are some books that I haven’t read yet, but am looking forward to…

What books would you recommend within this genre?

Remember a time before Twilight? A time before vampires that sparkled?

Well, between 2001 and 2008, I worked as a full time bookseller specialising in a peculiar mixture of cookery, crime fiction and Children’s books. I loved the Young Adult section and loved getting lost in a world of romance, adventure and fantasy. I saw the Twilight phenomenon unfold in the U.K. and while I love vampire books I was somewhat offended when I saw this icon on livejournal ->

Yes, I know that there are a lot of vampire books being published right now, but we mustn’t forget the quality non-fang fiction that has come out of the Young Adult section over the years. So I thought I would share some of my favourites with you all.

STARGIRL – JERRY SPINELLI

She’s as magical as the desert sky, and as mysterious as her own name. Nobody knows who she is or where she’s from. But everyone loves her for being different. And, she captures Leo’s heart with just one smile. “Stargirl” is a classic of our time that celebrates being true to ourselves and the thrill of first love. It is a life-changing read that touches souls of all ages.

This book first came out in 2002, with a bright pink cover – great for girls, but considering that the book is actually written from a boy’s perspective I was glad to see that they introduced an alternative cover that wouldn’t scare teenage boys away. This is a sweet and beautiful story about acceptance. It’s subtle and has a naive simplicity to its tale that really captured my heart. I can not recommend this book enough.

WITCH CHILD – CELIA REES

When Mary sees her grandmother accused of witchcraft and hanged for the crime, she is silently hurried to safety by an unknown woman. The woman gives her tools to keep the record of her days – paper and ink. Mary is taken to a boat in Plymouth and from there sails to the New World where she hopes to make a new life among the pilgrims. But old superstitions die hard and soon Mary finds that she, like her grandmother, is the victim of ignorance and stupidity, and once more she faces important choices to ensure her survival. With a vividly evoked environment and characters skilfully and patiently drawn, this is a powerful literary achievement by Celia Rees that is utterly engrossing from start to finish.

Witch Child is page-turning Young Adult at its best. The diary construct used in this novel allows Celia Rees’ to get right to the heart of Mary. A great blend of history and fiction really brings the characters to life.

JUNK – MELVIN BURGESS

This is an uncompromising, compelling and true-to-life story of two teenagers drawn into the dangerous and destructive world of heroin addiction. This tour de force by an acclaimed and provocative writer should become a definitive teenage novel on this subject.

This book is still one of my favourite YA books that I’m too scared to read again! It’s not scary, but boy is it dark! The downward spiral that our two leads makes this book a tough and emotional read, but it’s totally worthy it! The voices of the main characters are perfect and the different POVs of the different chapters allow for a personal and intimate, yet well-round look at the whole story.

Unwind – Neal Shusterman

Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together through desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing all the while that their lives are hanging in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthdays, they can’t be harmed. But when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away…Neal Shusterman challenges readers’ ideas about life – not just where it begins and where it ends, but what it truly means to be alive.

I read this a year and a bit ago and it’s by far my favourite of Neal Shusterman’s books. It’s a brilliant idea and the way that the alternate world is set up you could almost (almost!) see amputation and donors going to the next level… Twisted and dark, this book introduces some great characters alongside some really thought-provoking ethical themes.

to be continued…

And yes, I will be highlighting my favourite vampire books in the next few weeks as well!!

Well, everyone has had their say on this series, so I figure that I might as well have a pop at it as well 🙂

BREAKING DAWN – Stephenie Meyer

SYNOPSIS

To be irrevocably in love with a vampire is both fantasy and nightmare woven into a dangerously heightened reality for Bella Swan. Pulled in one direction by her intense passion for Edward Cullen, and in another by her profound connection to werewolf Jacob Black, she has endured a tumultuous year of temptation, loss and strife to reach the ultimate turning point. Her imminent choice to either join the dark but seductive world of immortals or pursue a fully human life has become the thread from which the fate of two tribes hangs. Now that Bella has made her decision, a startling chain of unprecedented events is about to unfold with potentially devastating and unfathomable consequences. Just when the frayed strands of Bella’s life – first discovered in Twilight, then scattered and torn in New Moon and Eclipse – seem ready to heal and knit together, could they be destroyed…forever?

REVIEW

Having read the previous three books in the series, I was really looking forward to reading this. Unfortunately… it left a bad taste in my mouth. This review contains many, many spoilers as it was impossible to share my thoughts without revealing the plot.

The series as a whole has had it’s ups and downs. Twilight had introduced the characters well, New Moon confirmed to me than I was going to read the whole series, but it was Eclipse that was by far my favourite of the series.

What I loved about Eclipse was exactly what was missing from Breaking Dawn. The other Cullens’ melted into the background (much of this was obviously caused by taking both Alice and Jasper out of the book for a huge portion), and considering they are what was interesting and enthralling about the previous three books – it seemed insane to me, to brush them aside.

The final battle – the battle which had bought all the vampires and wolves together, the battle which they had trained for and feared… was a huge anti-climax. It didn’t seem like the finale the series deserved. It needed to be epic, the battle needed to happen, and there needed to be loss on both sides. Instead. They talked and then each side when its own way. It just seemed senseless. When they had walked away from the Volturi in New Moon, it had made sense… it drove the story forward. This time however, their meeting with the Volturi turned into needless filler.

Clearly, I didn’t enjoy this book, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy aspects of it. I loved that Meyer wrote from Jacob’s POV, and I felt I was with Bella as she jumped across the river, and the traumatic birth of Nessie followed by Bella’s turning made for some intense reading. It was interesting to know more about Leah and I would have loved Meyer to have explore that thread of the story more. My issues with this book were all plot-based, the writing while maybe not the most literary, it did draw the reader in and Stephenie has created a world that has capitivated me since I read the first few pages of Twilight.

The series as a whole would have worked better if they had perhaps focused more on the relationship between the vampires and wolves, as in my mind, that’s what the books were about. I always imagined the final battle would be vampire vs. wolf with Bella stuck in the middle.

So, in conclusion, Breaking Dawn was a disappointing end to an enthralling series. It asked more new questions, rather than answering the existing ones, and the ending felt incredibly anti-climatic for such a series of books.

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