Saturday, November 26, 2016

The killing kind by Chris Holm

Michael Hendricks has a unique set of skills gained through years of service in the military, skills that are easily transferred to the world of professional hit men.  Hendricks doesn't kill at random or indiscriminately, he has a very niche market for his hits - he only kills other hit men.  He is a ghost that has taken out some pretty nasty killers over the years, but his skill and success rate has brought him attention that he could really do without.  When you are working as a hit man the perfect cover is when the world thinks you are already dead.

Hendricks has come to the attention of a Special Agent Charlotte Thompson of the FBI, who has spent years hunting for her 'ghost' - a killer that no one believed existed, at first anyway.  With another hit man dead, other Agents are starting to take her seriously.  On the other side of the world another kind of hunter is hot on the trail of Hendricks, a hit man employed to take out the hit man who has cut a devastating swath of destruction through the criminal community.  It is a race against time as Agent Thompson and the hit man try and track Hendricks down - one to catch him and one to kill him.

I picked up The killing kind after seeing it on a recommended book list, and while I normally don't stray too far into the thriller genre this was a book that had me hooked from the start.  One of the biggest hooks for me was the way the story jumped straight in, and the way that Chris Holm has crafted the character of Michael Hendricks.  Hendricks is damaged but not completely broken - he seems to be a solid representation of soldiers who have returned from armed conflict overseas.  There are echoes of real veterans in his character, and some of the other characters in his world.

Without spoiling the little twists and turns that make up this story it is believable and a rather enjoyable game of cat and mouse - or maybe that should be cats and mouse because Hendricks is hiding from not one, but two hunters.  It is a little unpolished in some places, but was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Bound by blood and sand by Becky Allen

Jae is one of the Closest, a caste of people made slaves by the actions of their ancestors, and the Curse that ensures their obedience.  She and the rest of the Closest work for the Highest, the ruling caste that controls their world, including the water that flows from the Well.  The Well is the source of all water, it provides for all the people who live and once made the world a green and thriving place.  Recently though, the water has not been as plentiful and a severe drought has turned the world into a desert where everything struggles to thrive - including the people.  Lady Shirrad is a young ruler, and she rules with the arrogance and dominance of the other Highest, and she is determined to make a good impression about her estate at any cost.

When Lord Elan, a member of the ruling family, visits the estate it is not to save them from their fate, it is to tell them that they will have to abandon the estate so the water can be redirected to where it is needed.  For Jae it seems like a blessing in disguise, because she has discovered that she can do magic, and her magic may be able to save her people.  When her secret is discovered, Jae is forced to flee from her home in search of the mythical Well - her only companions her twin brother Tal and Elan.  It is a race against time, because if they can not reach the Well and save the estate, then everyone will die and Jae's magic will be worth nothing because she will lose everything.

In recent years there has been a trend towards writing fantasy novels for teens (and adults not too embarrassed to admit they read teen books) that are broad, sweeping, and across many books that build on an epic scale.  Bound by blood and sand is almost a throw back to a simpler time, the characters and scale reminding myself and other reviewers of Tamora Pierce style fantasy novels.  This novel is one of "enough" for me - there is enough known about the main characters to help you connect with them, you know enough about their world to understand how it works and why it works that way, you can connect to the world enough to really enjoy the story.  It may be considered a back handed compliment, but it was a real treat to connect with a world and characters where I could engage with everything but not feel overwhelmed. 

Parents, librarians and teachers will also be relieved to find a series without gratuitous sex and violence.  I love authors like Sarah J. Maas and on a personal level I really enjoy the fact that she treats her teenage audience with respect and doesn't pull any punches - but I can't in good conscience recommend her recent books to younger teens.  Allen has created a world that I could get lost in, and characters I could believe in - and even better, a book I can recommend to younger teens with protective parents. 

There are some interesting themes explored her as well which could make Bound by blood and sand a suitable book for assigned reading - slavery, the environment, vows and honour, civil rights, and many more.  I really look forward to the second book in this series because although the ending is satisfying to a certain extent - there has to be more to come and I want to know what it is!

If you like this book then try:
  • The girl of fire and thorns by Rae Carson
  • Sandry's book (The magic in the weaving) by Tamora Pierce
  • Tris's book (The power in the storm) by Tamora Pierce
  • Daja's book (The fire in the forging) by Tamora Pierce
  • Briar's book (The healing in the vine) by Tamora Pierce
  • Magic steps by Tamora Pierce
  • Street magic by Tamora Pierce
  • Cold fire by Tamora Pierce
  • Shatterglass by Tamora Pierce
  • Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
  • Winter of fire by Sherryl Jordan
  • Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The halfmen of O by Maurice Gee
  • Under the mountain by Maurice Gee
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland
  • Walk on Earth a stranger by Rae Carson
  • Snow in Summer: Fairest of them all by Jane Yolen
  • The castle behind thorns by Merrie Haskell
  • Soundless by Richelle Mead
  • Crown duel by Sherwood Smith

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, November 18, 2016

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Miss Audrey Rose Wadsworth is not your average Victorian young lady, she has a fascination (and talent) for the grisly and bloody world of forensic science.  She is well placed to learn about forensics as she is apprenticed to her uncle, Doctor Jonathan Wadsworth, who has become tangled up in the case of a rather grisly murder of a woman who has been defiled in death in a most alarming way.  Audrey Rose is fascinated by the case, but not quite so fascinated with her uncles other apprentice Thomas Cresswell - who seems to think he is already an expert in the field of forensic science and investigation.  

Thomas is already at an advantage when it comes to his studies, as unlike Audrey Rose he doesn't have to worry about hiding his actions from his family.   Audrey Rose belongs to a good family, with an over protective father who wants to ensure his beloved daughter doesn't suffer the same fate as her mother - an early grave and a grieving family.  It is not until the second body, and then a third body appears that Audrey Rose, her uncle, and Thomas begin to understand that there is a serial killer at work in the streets of London - one with very particular tastes and hunting grounds.

All the clues soon point to someone in Audrey Rose's life, but surely no one she knows and loves could be the cold blooded killer that will one day be dubbed Jack the Ripper?  She will need all her intelligence and determination to solve the case, but will she discover who the killer is before it is too late?

I had seen postings for Stalking Jack the Ripper on social media and instantly fell in love with the cover and what was promised inside - and I was not disappointed in any way.  Kerri Maniscalco has created a clear strong voice for Audrey Rose, one that refuses to be bound by the conventions of her sex and time period with delightful results.  The action is fast paced and at times leaves you reeling as just when you think you might have the answer to who Jack the Ripper is the mat is ripped out from under your feet and you are left wondering what might come next.  

This book is a real treat and is one of those rare teen novels that passes easily into the realm of teen reads for adult readers.  I have to confess that when I read the author's note and found she had changed a few things I really didn't care, the setting of the novel and the atmosphere is what makes this historically accurate - the odd tweaking with names and dates doesn't take anything away from an amazing read.  Hopefully there are many more stories from Maniscalco as this was one hell of a ride.

If you like this book then try:
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • The book of blood and shadow by Robin Wasserman
  • Acceleration by Graham McNamee
  • Death cloud by Andrew Lane
  • Crime seen by Jenny Pausacker
  • When by Victoria Laurie
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • Guy Langman, crime scene procrastinator by Josh Berk
  • Dead to you by Lisa McMann
  • The limit by Kristin Landon
  • Holding smoke by Elle Cosimano

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Hide and seek by M.J. Arlidge

Hide and seek is the sixth book in the DI Helen Grace thrillers series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first books in the series.  While you can read this book independently you will get the most enjoyment out of reading the series in order.

Helen Grace has well and truly fallen from grace, incarcerated in the sad and decaying Holloway prison.  Every day behind bars is torture, not only because she has been framed, but also because there are a number of women in Holloway who are there because of her actions as a police officer.  Forced to live in general population, each day is a struggle to stay safe - not only from the other inmates, but also from some of the guards.  Each day behind bars is another day closer to her trial, but she has well and truly been stitched up by a cold calculated killer who knew exactly how to get her.  

The only person who truly believes that Helen is innocent is Charlie Brooks, but she is fighting an uphill battle against a police force that is determined to believe they have their murderer.  Searching for the real killer puts huge pressure on Charlie, but she is determined to prove that Helen Grace is innocent - even if it means risking her job to do it.  The clock is ticking on the case, and there is a very real chance that Grace may never make it out of Holloway alive.  There is a killer on the loose who is stalking the women of Holloway, a killer who not only kills their victims but also desecrates the bodies in a disturbing and gruesome way.  Trapped on the inside with the killer, Helen can't help but investigate the crime - once a cop, always a cop.  But Helen Grace isn't a cop anymore, she's a prisoner with no power and no credibility - and if she keeps digging she may very well dig her own grave.

The DI Helen Grace thrillers are fast paced and hard hitting, with short and snappy chapters that keep the action moving at a breathless pace and challenge you to figure out what is happening before everything is revealed in the last few chapters.  With Helen Grace in prison for murder it seemed like it was going to be a different kind of read with Hide and seek, but the truth is that it was just like the rest of the series - tightly written, with some very clever little plot points along the way.  

This is an amazing series and while for some international readers it may be a very "British" I am not from the United Kingdom and I could follow it just fine.  Arlidge wrote for television for a number of years and you can feel that with his writing, he doesn't waste time on flowery prose or overly detailed descriptions - he lets the characters and the story keep you connected to the story.  If you like authors like James Patterson then you have to try Arlidge, and if you like Arlidge and haven't tried Patterson yet then I suggest you do.  

Now the countdown starts to March 2017 when we get to read Follow my leader - the next book in the series.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Like a river glorious by Rae Carson

Like a river glorious is book two in the Gold Seer trilogy and while you can read it as a stand alone novel I highly recommend reading book one, Walk on Earth a stranger first.  This review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first book in the series.

After all the trials and troubles on her journey to California, Leah Westfall has finally made it to the gold fields.  On the gold fields she has the chance to be anonymous, to join other treasure seekers as they try and make a life for themselves.  Leah and her companions have an advantage though, even if most of them don't know - Leah can sense the presence of gold, a very useful skill when you are trying to find land to stake your claim.  When she finally reveals her ability to her travelling companions it is a relief, but telling them will not protect her from the uncle that desperately wants her under his control.  The small community that springs to life from their claims may be small, but it is also a tight knit community where Leah finds peace and comfort.

Leah knows her Uncle Hiram is ruthless, he killed her parents and took their land after all, and she will never be truly safe from him as long as she is unmarried and living alone.  When the community suffers a tragedy it becomes clear that her uncle is even more ruthless than she thought, and when he kidnaps her she realises just how little control she really has over her own life.  As Leah tries desperately to escape from her uncle she learns more about him and the lengths he will go to to get what he wants.  With everything to lose Lead must risk everything - for her freedom, and the freedom of the people she loves.

I just adored Walk on Earth a stranger, and couldn't help but wonder how Rae Carson was going to match such an amazing read - but I shouldn't have worried because Like a river glorious was an amazing read in it's own right.  Carson has admitted that she has tweaked the facts in her historical novels, but she has taken nothing away from a unique time in history that is perfectly blended with a subtle and believable magic.  Leah continues to grow into her power, not just her gold magic, but also her strength and power as a woman living in a world where women had no real power.  Leah is smart, strong, and fiercely loyal to her friends and the friends she has taken on as family.

There is so much more I could say about this story and why I loved every minute of it, but the only way to do that is to spoil the story by revealing plot points and some of the revelations we get along the way.  I eagerly await the final book in the series because there are some seriously "oh no she didn't" moments that need to play out in the last book in the series for a satisfying ending to this trilogy.  Carson is highly recommended for her richly imagined worlds and for creating characters that grow into their strength and power.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Diplomatic immunity by Brodi Ashton

Piper Baird has one dream and one dream only - to win the Bennington scholarship and become a journalist.  Step one of that dream is winning a scholarship spot at the Chiswick Academy, step two is writing amazing articles that help her win the scholarship, leading to step three which is a place at Columbia University to study journalism.  Piper was at the top of her game at her old school, but in her new school she faces some serious competition - and not all of it is friendly or above board.  It seems like her hopes and dreams of becoming a journalist are over, until she decides to follow in the footsteps of her journalist idols and go in deep under cover to write an expose on the rich and influential students of Chiswick.  

The target of her research is Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador and all round poster boy for the rich and spoilt children with Diplomatic Immunity (the DIs).  Rafael seems an easy target for Piper's plan and she has no problem sneaking around and putting his life under the microscope.  But slowly Piper comes to realise that Rafael is not what he appears to be, that there is more to his story than Diplomatic Immunity and throwing money around.  When her article is finally finished will Piper be able to publish the scathing expose on everything that is wrong with Cheswick Academy?

I really enjoyed reading Diplomatic immunity - it is well written with strong characters and a plot that makes sense.  Piper starts off as a big fish in a little pond which means she is self assured and confident, and that soon slips when she becomes a little fish in a big pond.  Her interactions with Rafael are endearing and entertaining, and you can't help but like both of them as the story progresses.  Both of the main characters start out somewhat two dimensional and stereotyped, but as you move forward with their story you get to see more of what makes them tick and I didn't want to put the book down because I wanted to see what was coming next!  

There are moments when the story seems quite predictable, but Ashton keeps the story real and the relationships real too.  I was intrigued by their world, and loved the way that Ashton treated her characters on the autism spectrum with such respect and dignity - rather than as cardboard cut outs thrown in for a plot point.  An all round good read that deserves to be discovered because there is an awful lot to like and nothing to dislike.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Reckless Creed by Alex Kava

Reckless Creed is the third book in the Ryder Creed series, and while it can be read as a stand alone novel I highly recommend reading the series in order starting with Breaking Creed and Silent Creed otherwise this review contains **SPOILERS***.

Ryder Creed has built up a successful business over the years, taking in the dogs no one else wants and training them to be scent dogs to help law enforcement and search and rescue.  More recently he has branched out to help people with medical conditions, training dogs to help people with epilepsy and diabetes.  It seems as though there is no limit to what his dogs are capable off, especially his little dynamo Grace.  K9 CrimeScents is a successful business, and Creed is always pushing the boundaries to see what his dogs are capable of - a blessing and a curse.

In Chicago, FBI Agent Maggie O'Dell has been called in to investigate an apparent suicide in a hotel - the suicide of a person who was deathly ill.  To her trained eye it appears that something isn't quite right, but everyone else is convinced it was a suicide.  At the same time Creed and Grace are involved in a search and rescue in Florida where a young woman appears to have loaded her pockets with rocks and waded into the water to die.  The two cases seem unconnected, but Creed and O'Dell are about to be thrown together by yet another case as they race against time to stop a mad scientist from unleashing a virus on the unsuspecting people of America.

I make no secret of the fact that I love the Ryder Creed series, and I have to confess that part of that reason is the dogs and the way their multiple skills have been blended realistically into the story.  The truth is that Ryder Creed would be nothing without his dogs, and that each dog brings it's own unique aspect to the story - especially little Grace whop reminds me a great deal of my mothers little dog.

One of the scariest things about this book is that it is likely to happen at some point somewhere in the world - there are already so many stories throughout history of man playing god with science and creating weapons and diseases to be used as weapons.  There are moments when my heart was in my mouth waiting to see what happens next, especially where the dogs were concerned, but also because the characters are starting to feel very real in this series.

This is a fast paced and action packed story that plays out in a very short space of time which makes it even scarier!  This series has great potential for many more novels, mainly because there are some many uses for working dogs and their noses - working dogs are amazing and deserve the exposure this series is giving them.  Now, to sit back and wait for the next book in the series....

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Closer to the heart by Mercedes Lackey

Closer to the chest is the third book in The Herald spy series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in Closer to home and Closer to the heart - you can read this story independently but you will enjoy it more if you have read Closer to home and The Collegium chronicles which is the story about how Mags came to be a Herald of Valdemar.

Being a Herald is challenging at the best of times, always working tirelessly for the good of the Kingdom of Valdemar - but when you are husband to the King's Own Herald and working as a Herald spy it is even more challenging.  Herald Mags has become used to living multiple lives at once, but that doesn't mean it is pleasant - when he walks the streets of Valdemar in disguise he learns a lot about the streets of Haven, but it also leaves him open to attack from people who don't appreciate his meddling. 

Harkon let's Mags move about with ease, but his habit of collecting street urchins from masters that use and abuse them has drawn some nasty attention his way and Mags can't afford the distraction.  Someone is targeting the women of the Court and the Collegia, leaving nasty notes that criticise them for being harlots and stealing from men, hate filled rhetoric designed to rip women down and remind them of their proper place.  For some women it seems like a nasty joke that they shrug off and laugh away, but for others it is a crippling blow that strips them of their confidence.  Not content with the use of mere words, the damage soon escalates to attacks on businesses owned and operated by women, and exclusively female religious orders.

The arrival of a new religious order, Sethor the Patriach, seems to logically link to the attacks but neither Mags nor Amily can find a link between the attacks and the order.  If anything, the priests of Sethor appear to be doing a lot for the men of their local neighbourhood.  There is something festering under the surface in Haven, and the mood is not helped with the sweltering heat of summer.  With the attacks escalating Mags and Amily are running out of time to solve the mystery before someone dies.

I love Valdemar - stated boldly to be upfront about my bias when it comes to reviewing Mercedes Lackey books!  For the first time, we really get to experience what it truly means for Valdemar to have no one "true way" when it comes to religion, which makes it rather tricky for the characters to deal with this time.  I may struggle a little with the way Mags speaks when he is being "common" (as I have noted in previous reviews) but I just adore the relationship between Mags and Dallen - and I have to say that I think Dallen is my all time favourite Companion.  The interplay between Mags and Dallen rings completely true for the relationship between a Herald and their Companion, partly helped because of a particularly strong gift for Mindspeech. 

It has been an incredible journey over the past few years as Mags has established himself as a Herald and a trusted member of the King's inner court, and there are hints that there is more to come.  The time they live in is one that has not been explored before, and it is unusual to spend so much time with a single set of characters - although their world does shrink and grow like it would in real life, with characters arriving and departing as their lives dictate.  I hope that Lackey continues to work with their characters (even if that is because I want to see more of Dallen!).  This is a highly recommended world for readers who enjoy their fantasy with real characters, real situations, and real challenges.  It is difficult to hate people because of their race, religion, or sexuality after reading about the world of Valdemar!

The Collegium chronicles:
  • Foundation by Mercedes Lackey
  • Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey
  • Changes by Merdeces Lackey
  • Redoubt by Mercedes Lackey
  • Bastion by Mercedes Lackey

The Herald Spy:
  • Closer to home by Mercedes Lackey
  • Closer to the heart by Mercedes Lackey
  • Closer to the chest by Mercedes Lackey

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

French kiss by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

French Detective Luc Moncrief is a long way from his home working the streets of New York.  It is supposed to be a chance for him to polish his detective work, bringing some real skills to balance out the instincts that drove his work in Paris and now in New York.  His partner Maria Martinez has her work cut out for her, after all a French detective in New York is still a French detective! 

When Maria is found murdered Detective Moncrief is partnered with another detective, and she is just as by the book and determined to do things the "right way" as Martinez was - and Moncrief is just as determined to keep doing things the way he wanted.  All of his instinct and determination will mean nothing if Moncrief can't get to the bottom of the mystery.  How many more people will die before he discovers the truth?

Bookshots have a wide variety of books in the series - some tie in with other full novel series, while others are stand alone novellas.  French kiss is a stand alone novella at the moment, but we can look forward to the upcoming The Christmas Mystery

Detective Luc Moncrief is charmingly arrogant and self assured, he has grown up with money and appears to have a somewhat warped view about the world (he is very, very French).  There are some delightful moments of culture shock for him, and this very snappily written addition to the Bookshots series does credit not only to the authors, but also to the principles behind the series - this is definitely 145 pages of high octane action and drama!

If you like this book then try:
  • Private Royals by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • Zoo 2 by James Patterson and Max DiLallo
  • The hostage by James Patterson and Robert Gold
  • Black and Blue by James Patterson and Candice Fox
  • Let's play make-believe by James Patterson and James O'Born
  • Chase by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Heist by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • Airport code red by James Patterson and Michael White

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Holding smoke by Elle Cosimano

John "Smoke" Conlan is in the Y - a juvenile rehabilitation centre in Denver, Colorado.  He is serving time for two murders, his English teacher and a teenage boy, but he only has the blood of one person on his hands not two.  The Y is a brutal place where all the inmates are guilty of a serious crime, and you have to be strong and keep your wits about you at all times if you want to stay alive.  Some people rely on brute force for respect, but Smoke provides a unique service instead - he trades in information about the outside world.  

Everyone in the Y thinks he has amazing contacts on the outside, but the truth is that at night when everyone else is asleep he slips out of his body and walks the streets looking for information he can use and trade on the inside.  Some of the information he finds is ordered by the inmates through a carefully controlled and secretive method, but other information he finds while he is roaming the streets.  When he stumbles across a person who can see him when he is out completing an order one day his life changes - and becomes infinitely more complicated.  

John lives up to his nickname Smoke in more ways than one, because when he leaves his body he becomes a hazy version of himself and with each visit outside his body he loses strands of his being that drift away like smoke in a breeze.  When he discovers that he is literally losing threads of himself each time he leaves his body, Smoke has to make the hard decision of taking the easy road and protecting himself, or risking his life and possibly his soul to do the right thing.

Elle Cosimano created a fresh and unique crime thriller with her books Nearly gone and Nearly found - adding a touch of the supernatural to the thriller/mystery genre.  With Holding smoke Cosimano has once again blended together the thriller/mystery and the supernatural, but this time the supernatural is something that could be true for anyone who had been through the same situation as Smoke, which makes it completely believable.  Smoke is a character you can't help but like, for me simply because he was a victim of circumstance and while he does look out for himself, ultimately he is willing to make sacrifices to do the right thing.

Cosimano is an amazing writer, and she has managed to carve off a little slice of the young adult writing market - something that is not easy to do at all.  The world she has created is rich in the details that make life "real", but not so focused on being unique and new that she comes across as being "too clever".  There is a lot to like here, and nothing to dislike, and I can't wait to see what comes next from this very talented author.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla