Archive for January, 2020

He was once called Orphan X.

As a boy, Evan Smoak was taken from a children’s home, raised and trained as part of a secret government initiative buried so deep that virtually no one knows it exists. But he broke with the programme, choosing instead to vanish off grid and use his formidable skill set to help those unable to protect themselves.

One day, though, Evan’s luck ran out . . .

Ambushed, drugged, and spirited away, Evan wakes up in a locked room with no idea where he is or who has captured him. As he tries to piece together what’s happened, testing his gilded prison and its highly trained guards for weaknesses, he receives a desperate call for help.

With time running out, he will need to out-think, out-manoeuvre, and out-fight an opponent the likes of whom he’s never encountered to have any chance of escape. He’s got to save himself to protect those whose lives depend on him. Or die trying . . .

The Nowhere Man: Orphan X #2

Gregg Hurwitz

Michael Joseph

Borrowed from Auckland Libraries

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Evan is the Nowhere Man, helping those trapped in impossible situations who cannot help themselves.  His latest mission is successful and he finds details of another innocent who needs help.  Then he is captured, drugged, and wakes up in a locked room, with no idea where he is or who captured him.

He has to discover who took him, where he is, why he was taken, how many guards he needs to kill………  There are a lot of chess moves in the plot and the action is incredibly fast and clever.  One move with a Perspex prison was so clever – I didn’t see that coming!  An unexpected face saves the day and Evan must feel so betrayed.

I really enjoyed the story and the ending – wow!  I can’t wait to read Orphan X #3!

Orphan X: Orphan X #1 review here

The Nowhere Man is a legendary figure spoken about only in whispers. It’s said that when he’s reached by the truly desperate and deserving, the Nowhere Man can and will do anything to protect and save them.

But he’s no legend.

Evan Smoak is a man with skills, resources, and a personal mission to help those with nowhere else to turn. He’s also a man with a dangerous past. Chosen as a child, he was raised and trained as part of the off-the-books black box Orphan program, designed to create the perfect deniable intelligence assets—i.e. assassins. He was Orphan X. Evan broke with the program, using everything he learned to disappear.

Now, however, someone is on his tail. Someone with similar skills and training. Someone who knows Orphan X. Someone who is getting closer and closer. And will exploit Evan’s weakness—his work as The Nowhere Man—to find him and eliminate him.

Orphan X: Orphan X #1

Gregg Hurwitz

Minotaur Books

Borrowed from Auckland Libraries

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

The fifth book is being released this year so I thought I should catch up and read the first four. I’m so pleased with that decision.

The hero is Evan Smoak, who was enrolled in a top-secret operation known as the Orphan Program.  The goal of the program was to train orphans to be assassins for American government agencies.  He was the 24th recruit in the program and known only as Orphan X. The program was officially shut down after Evan discovered he was being lied to and not all of his targets were bad guys.

In an effort to make amends, he now helps people trapped in impossible situations to get free.  Each person he helps is told to pay it forward by giving someone in need of help his phone number – 1-855-2-NOWHERE.

The action begins with Evan taking on a corrupt LAPD officer and never slows down.  The plot is breathtakingly fast and very tightly woven, full of twists and turns as you try to figure out who to trust.  As well as his vigilante justice side, we see how he hides in plain sight and meet the boring, mundane Evan Smoak.

I really enjoyed the story and the only fault was it kept me reading ‘just one more chapter’ – making me stay up far too late and causing tiredness the next day.

But wow! I DID NOT expect that epilogue!  I need to read Orphan X #2!

“Exceptional” is the sequel to the Sir Julius Vogel Awards finalist “Watched”, and continues the story of super-powered Prodigies Jason and Rory in their battle against the all-seeing Watchers.

While Rory pursues their leader, Chaos, in the Dark universe, Jason is forced into an uneasy alliance with AEGIS, a militarised intelligence agency that seems to know more about Prodigies than it should. A storm is coming.

Jason will determine its course, but there are truths waiting for Rory in the dark that will change everything. Both must decide where they stand before the storm breaks.

Exceptional: The Watchers Trilogy #2

Tihema Baker

Huia Press

Supplied by author

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

This is the long-awaited sequel to Baker’s 2015 novel “Watched”. So, it’s superheroes again, and very much again. I’m not sure that there’s much new and interesting here. Baker introduces a second organisation, AEGIS, connected to the Five Eyes Network, and just as determined to control prodigies (his name for super-powered individuals) as the Watchers from book one, but run by secret government agencies. Which takes away some of the charm, I think. Bureaucrats are just no fun.
Meanwhile, our heroes just want to be free and to rescue their friends. Which is not going to be a simple exercise, because one of them is stuck in another universe, an upside-down where dark energy and dark matter dominate. Baker tosses a lot of physics technobabble around in this book, and I’m not convinced he understands the subject well enough to be convincing.

Maybe it’s just that I’ve had quite enough of super-heroes and comic book bad science, but I really did not enjoy this book. The action kept me reading, and I did finish it, but maybe I’m just too far removed from the target audience, because it was tough going.

An unexpected inheritance gives the Heffley family a chance to make major improvements to their home. But they soon find that construction isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When things get rough, will the Heffleys be able to stay…or will they be forced to move?

Wrecking Ball: Diary of a Wimpy Kid #14

Jeff Kinney

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Dylan Howell

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball is the 14th book in the bestselling series of kids fiction books written and illustrated by American author and cartoonist Jeff Kinney. It presents another thrilling compilation of events from the life of ‘Wimpy Kid’, Greg Heffley, who compiles dozens of anecdotal insights into the life of himself and his family with every novel. The series has been a success ever since 2004 when the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid (DOAWK) was released on kids’ website ‘FunBrain’ where it received 20 million reads. DOAWK ‘Wrecking Ball’ continues the success of this series in a hilarious new story.

In DOAWK ‘Wrecking Ball’ Greg Heffley and his family embark on a brand new adventure, after receiving an inheritance large enough to convince the Heffley’s to make some home improvements. Of course, hijinks ensue -Mould, rotting wood, rodents living where they shouldn’t be, and Greg is struggling to cope with the potential loss of his best friend, providing new material in another triumph of originality for the series. Which is at heart, a slice-of-life comedy series that shouldn’t be missed by anyone.

As a long time reader of these books, I’ve grown up with the DIAWK series, with Greg Heffley being one of the first protagonists I could ever relate to. Somehow, through over 15 years of writing, and drawing, and his audience of people like me growing up, Kinney manages to make me laugh every single time and I make sure to never miss any new novel. His books are like magic, with every new story he uses his wit and humour to stack up the pieces and jokes so expertly it’s mind blowing when he knocks them all down at the end and you feel like you’re watching the events on the page unfold for real.

More than once did I laugh out loud reading this, the 14th book in the series. These stories are timeless, endlessly original and enjoyable for any age. Diary of a Wimpy Kid deserves all the credit I can give, and this book is another perfect installment in the series that just won’t stop putting out knockout tales from the life of Greg Heffley. I can recommend this book for ages 7+. If you love David Walliams, or Roald Dahl, or if you’re a plain funny human being, I can easily say this explosive comedy novel is for you.

Happy New Year!!!

Posted: January 1, 2020 in greetings
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