Book Review: House of Robots – Robot Revolution, by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_robot_revolutionJames Patterson is one of the most prolific authors today. He co-authors a number of series with up and coming authors. Most feature his trademark of short, attention grabbing chapters. While famous for his adult series of Alex Cross novels, James has a significant range of young adult books, including the Middle School series and this edition from the House of Robots series. In his spare time, Patterson is involved in a lot of charitable work supporting youth literacy, independent bookstores and education scholarships. It makes it very easy to support a best-selling author who is passionate about engaging children in reading!

House of Robots: Robot Revolution may seem lengthy at 316 pages, but the story is broken into short chapters with many illustrations throughout. At the heart of the story is Sammy, who lives with his sister and parents in a robot-filled house. His mother is an inventor, who has designed a number of household robots. One robot, E, has a special purpose: he attends school for Sammy’s sister, Maddie. Maddie has an auto-immune illness that prevents her from leaving the house. As the story starts Sammy’s parents are distracted,and the robots are not working properly. This causes trouble for Sammy at home and school.

In many ways this is quite a sweet story. While it is clear that the parents are very busy, and that Maddy’s illness is a serious household concern, the story’s focus is on Sammy and school. The characters are well defined, and stop short of being cliched – I was left with a very sympathetic view of a busy family who look out for each other. The story includes a number of amusing robot-related disasters, and my ten-year-old daughter was often heard laughing out loud while reading this book. We have since sought out the other books in this series.

It is a very entertaining read, and one that is suitable for children aged 9-12.

A review from Hannah (10)

Robots! You would think that they help the house run better, right? Right!? Well, not really. These robots are sick of their job but support a little girl (Maddie). They adore her but rebel because they think E, a robot who goes to school for Maddie, gets all the best care.

A science fair must be won, however a snobby, rich and intelligent boy is crushing hopes and dreams by using perfection as a base for all his work. Can Sammy beat the new kid and save his sister from her prison in her room because of a disease? Can his best friend stay loyal all the way? Can they see the new kid make his biggest mistake yet in front of public, or will Sammy be forever humiliated by his whole school? Find out the answers in the book!

I love this book and I have read it over and over again.

I give this book 8/10 bunny power!

Book review by Emma Rutherford and Hannah Wong-Ming

House of Robots: Robot Revolution
Written by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Published by Arrow
ISBN 9781784754242



Book Review: Humans, Bow Down, by James Patterson & Emily Raymond

cv_humans_bow_downI have been an avid James Patterson fan for years. I especially enjoy the Alex Cross series and eagerly await new titles. His collaboration with a number of authors allows a wider repertoire and probably a greater spread of the profit. Sometimes the collaborations work, sometimes they make uneasy bed-mates.

So when I picked up Humans, Bow Down I was taken by surprise. This is no detective novel. This is a completely new genre but written superbly and a thoroughly gripping tale.

Here we are introduced to an earth in the future where humans are the minority, living on the fringes and subservient to their HuBot masters. It sounds like a simplistic plot, but it actually works well. Can the human race survive in a world where they are emotive and illogical? The intelligent, controlled and skilled HuBots are the masters on this earth.

The story follows the life of Six and her family as they struggle to survive in the underworld of the Reserve. On the HuBot side we have a malfunctioning family who appear to express emotions which leads to the empathy formed between the two lead females.

I felt the story was incomplete and rushed towards a conclusion. The setting lends itself to a new series of books based on these characters, which may perhaps be the hidden agenda. I look forward to further titles from this combination of writers telling of the future of HuBots and Humans on this strange new earth

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Humans, Bow Down
by James Patterson & Emily Raymond
Published by Century
ISBN 9781780895505

Book Review: Middle School – Dog’s Best Friend, by James Patterson

Available on 6 April in bookshops nationwide.

cv_middle_school_dogs_best_friendI enjoyed this book. I think that I may have read one or two of James Patterson’s books in the past, but this is my first from this series. I really enjoyed the cartoon strips that the author and illustrator incorporated into this chapter book for preteens.

Middle School: Dog’s Best Friend is about boy named Rafe Khatchadorian who is just trying to survive middle school. In this novel he starts his own dog walking business to buy a WormHole Premium Multi-Platform Game Box (and also help out his family). But as most stories go this all turns to custard as some new kids turn up, whom he just can’t seem to get out of his mind. Along with this, he faces his sister being moved up into all his classes.

I really enjoyed the nail-biting suspense at the end of each chapter. I would recommend this book for anyone over 9 or someone trying to get out of reading so many comics.

Reviewed by Isabelle Ralston (14)

Middle School – Dog’s Best Friend
by James Patterson
Published by Arrow
ISBN 9781784753900



Book Review: Word of Mouse, by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_word_of_mouseYou might think that the intended readers for this book, ie: intermediate school kids, would be too old for a story about a mouse, indeed the heft of it alone implies they would have outgrown little animal stories. However even though there are illustrations scattered throughout, this is no cutesie chapterbook for littlies. True, the protagonist is a mouse but he is no ordinary mouse; for one thing Isaiah is blue. And he can read. And in his own words, is “… very smart, with a very advanced (dare I say urbane?) vocabulary…”. He is also a very timid and scared mouse. The youngest in his family of 96 siblings, he is separated from them as they all run for their lives from The Horrible Place and for the first time ever has to rely on his own instinct and smarts for survival.

From finding food and shelter, to joining up with a new family (did you know a group of mice is called a mischief?), Isaiah discovers he is more capable than he thought, and he determines to find and rescue his brothers and sisters with the help of his new friends. Along the way, we find out more about the mouse world, Isaiah and just why he is so different.

Call me a big kid, but I really enjoyed this tale. Isaiah is a cool little guy with a heart of gold; clever, kind and courageous, and with a charming way with words:

So, for now, I will simply tarry here in the shrubbery, sniff my dandelion and listen to her sing to herself and the bees buzzing around the rosebuds. Bees always like to hum along whenever mice sing their songs. My, what a sweet, dare I say dulcet, voice she has.

(I mean, how could you not love a mouse who uses a word like ‘tarry’?) His wisdom is shared is inspiring chapter heading quotes – gem such as: ‘Given a challenge, be like the sun: Rise to the occasion.’ And ‘A mouse wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.’ It is this wisdom, bravery and genuine kindness which sees him taking a risk and making friends with a human girl, who is also different to her peers.

A desperate escape, finding oneself, making new friends, celebrating differences, animal rights and a daring rescue – it’s all here in an entertaining, well thought out story filled with fun for kids “After a few minutes of rumbling down the road, I smell something foul. Like rotten eggs. No, it’s not Mr Brophy or what he had for breakfast.”

A prolific and bestselling international author, Word of Mouse is the latest middle grade by James Patterson, who is a regular feature in both adult and children’s bestseller lists (yes, THAT James Patterson). A passionate advocate of reading and education, he has won awards not only for his work but for his philanthropy and support of literacy. His skill at story-telling is very evident in this great read.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

Word of Mouse
by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Joe Sutphin
Penguin Random House, 2016
ISBN: 9781784754211

Book Review: Private Paris, by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan

cv_private_parisAvailable now in bookshops nationwide.

A piece of tagging, appearing anywhere and everywhere among the streets of Paris, seems innocuous enough…its meaning obtuse, but not overtly offensive; more a puzzle, really, or a code, with no meaning – yet. Not exactly a top priority for either the Paris La Crim force or the Private, Paris agency.

Jack Morgan arrives in Paris from Berlin, but what was a routine office visit becomes a case involving Kimberley, a missing girl, possibly kidnapped, who may or may not want to be found.

While tracing Kimberley, Jack discovers Paris’s hidden world of crime, murder, cultural clashes, arms trading – all among the idolatry of its cultural icons of the arts, fashion and culinary expertise. The missing girl’s case becomes secondary to a world of pseudo-terrorism, and Kimberley is pivotal to both.

There are many characters for the reader to keep track of as they come and go, but the plot easily meshes together all the elements of an incredible conspiracy. This is the eleventh of the Private series, another I’ll have to pick back up from number one, and was written with Mark Sullivan.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Private Paris
by James Patterson
Published by Century, for Penguin Random House
ISBN:  9781780892795

Book Review: NYPD Red 3, by James Patterson (with Marshall Karp)

Available in bookstores nationwide.cv_nypd_red_3

This is the story of three generations of a wealthy family, with Hudson. H. Alden I as the founder of the family’s legacy, annoyed at the ethics of his son (Hunter H. Alden II), who is equally annoyed at his son (H. H. Alden III, a.k.a. ‘Tripp’). And what Tripp has done to annoy his father is avoid the world of investments and trust funds, and instead seek a career in movie making, with friend Lonnie, under the tutelage of teacher Ryan Maddison. Not an atypical family issue in novels…so far, fairly commonplace…

Until Hunter’s chauffeur, Peter, has his head removed and placed, carefully in a chiller box, on the floor of Hunter’s garage, and Tripp and Lonnie are missing. Enter one tall blond unnamed man, whose note in Peter’s mouth scares the living daylights out of Hunter. But Hunter is not so scared that he’ll call the police – no, he’s a determined man, and tries to handle things his own way, being more concerned about the note and its writer than Peter, or Tripp who is missing.

NYPD Red detectives Zach and Kylie (who star in the previous two NYPD Red novels) only become involved when Peter’s headless body is found – not hidden, just…left on the ground among trees, a small distance from Hunter’s limousine. NYPD Red have a body, a limo, and nothing more – not even cooperation from Hunter. His wife, Tripp’s step-mother, doesn’t know about Tripp and his friend Lonnie being missing, nor about Peter’s death…yet.

While Hunter uses his private detective to carry out his own investigations, Zach & Kylie are left to patch information snippets together. Possibly fake texts from Tripp don’t help. An interview with the typical neighbourhood busybody gives them another puzzle to fit into what they have, and the janitor of a disused school is dragged into the mystery. Hunter’s father, uninterested in Hunter’s financial shenanigans, calls in the newly appointed mayor to lean on NYPD Red to move more quickly on finding his missing grandson.

There are lots of “two steps forward, one step back” situations, the main characters are fleshed out by incidental interaction in their personal lives, action scenes, then we come to a close by way of an unexpected reveal before the case is closed.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street, also here

NYPD Red 3
by James Patterson
Publisher: Century
Paperback ISBN: 9781780892757
Hardback ISBN: 9781780892740

Book Review: The Thomas Berryman Number, by James Patterson

Available in bookstores nationwide.cv_the_thomas_berryman_number

Recently scurrying through Wellington Airport I was accosted by a 7-foot blow-up of Crime Writer James Patterson on the side of a bookshop wall. Appropriate, I thought, given he’s a master of the airport thriller.

He’s a prolific writer and has producer numerous bestsellers including Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls. His online bibliography boasts 135 separate items. He’s largely known for the series about crime-fighting psychologist Alex Cross and he’s done the ‘Michael Bennett’, ‘Women’s Murder Club’, ‘Maximum Ride’, ‘Daniel X’, and Witch and Wizard books, as well as many stand-alone thrillers, non-fiction and romance novels. I learned that he’s sold more than 300 million copies and holds the Guinness World Record for being the first person to sell 1 million e-books. Phew! He is more recently known as somebody who collaborates freely with other authors.

The Thomas Berryman Number is his first novel, originally published in 1976 and now re-released in a new edition. Thomas Berryman is a hit man, a ‘Number’ being his code name for a cold, calculated assassination. The book opens with three horrific murders in the South.  Cool, calm, collected; Berryman researches his targets. In one case, he even enjoys reading their published biographies.

The story is directed loosely through the journal entries of a small town journalist who’s researching the killing of a high profile Southern politician, senate hopeful Jimmie Lee Horn. It alternates between the lens of Ochs Jones and the slithering, shadow of Berryman himself. I found the crisscrossing flashbacks somewhat diminished the immediacy and created some confusion at times.

Patterson writes at speed, his prose is quick, but somehow this plot just seems to crawl. It’s set in the Southern States of 1960’s America but is sparse on atmosphere and reference points. Unexpected reminders pop up here and there – descriptions of cars, recent events, radio shows or clothing. Yet none are truly unique to the time and I found it hard to put my head in that space. Of course, given it was written before 1976, when the story was written it was probably contemporary, but this is a failure of editing even if so. The trail of evidence presented by Jones is difficult to follow, and the essence of a suspense thriller – the ability to work out your own conclusions – seems to me to be missing. 

Given his legacy of speed to resolution, I was left wanting. If this was a library book, I would have returned it unfinished. For me, my only commitment to finish was so I could write this review. The concluding chapters were more of a relief than further suspense. As you can tell, this is not the novel I was hoping for.

But, in contemplation, it is another style for Patterson, and from a different time. Researching this one I saw many views and reviews. The camps are divided. Some want an Alex Cross prototype, others forgive his experimental approach, acknowledging the clear parallels between this and the drier literature of American novel like Catcher in the Rye and To Kill A Mockingbird. As a modern reader, in a fast-paced world, with a short media attention span, these, and this book require patience. It’s certainly a document to a very successful career. And, like Elvis, 50,000,000 fans can’t be wrong. But that is with regards his later work. On this, his first book? Well, you be the judge of that.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

The Thomas Berryman Number
by James Patterson
Published by Century
ISBN 9781780894423