Friday, September 30, 2016

Poisoned blade by Kate Elliott

Poisoned blade is the sequel to Court of fives so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first book in the series.  I highly recommend reading Court of fives before you read anymore of this review as this is a series that is best read in order.

Jes is trapped in the world - not only because she is subject to the whims of Lord Gargaron, but also becuase she is of two different worlds and not really accepted by either.  To the ruling Patron class she is a mule, tainted by her Efean heritage, and to the Efeans she is not to be trusted because of her Patron father.  The only place that Jes feels any control over her life is on the Fives court - and even there she has no real control as she runs for the Garon stable for the glory of Lord Gargaron.  Her fate seems sealed, as does that of her family, but Jes is not one to yield to mere fate.

A tour of the provinces belonging to Garon Palace is a chance for Jes to try and find the remaining part of her family, but it also exposes her to new challenges and complications.  What seemed like a simple plan soon unravels as nothing is what it seems - a fact Jes should be well used to by now.  As plans and schemes start falling into place Jes will finally discover what it truly means to be part of both worlds and just how dangerous change can be.  In times of war people make desperate decisions, and sometimes those decisions lead to sacrifices.  Jes is her fathers daughter, but she is also her mothers daughter and the time is coming when she may have to choose between them and their respective peoples.  Change is coming and it may be a humble "mule" that holds the key to the future of Efea.

Poisoned blade is the second book in the Court of fives series and I am well and truly hooked on this series, not only because it is a brilliant read, but also because it fills a gap in the teen fantasy market.  Too often fantasy is written for very young teens and is sugar coated, or it is written for older teens and the content can be very explicit or disturbing for younger teens - Elliott has found the perfect balance of providing a detailed and engrossing read without the sex and bloody gore that marks some of the other series (not a criticism of those series as they also have an important role to play in the teen fantasy genre).  

The world of Efea was slowly unfurled for us in Court of fives, and with Poisoned blade we get to explore more of the world - both in physical geography and in terms of the people and politics.  Jes has continued to grow and develop, the true mark of an epic fantasy series as she is slowly being molded and changed by her experiences.  I was so absorbed in the story that at times I was surprised to see how many pages I had read on the go, and when I got to the end I was a little surprised to see there wasn't anymore because I wanted more - Elliott has left a cliff hanger style ending that was satisfying but has me eagerly awaiting the next book in the series to see what comes next!  

This is a great series that blends together all the essential elements of an epic fantasy series that can easily be enjoyed by teens and adults alike.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Ones by Daniel Sweren-Becker

In America one percent of the population has won the ultimate lottery - the chance to be genetically altered to be the best version of yourself you can possibly be.  These Ones have the ultimate advantage, they are more intelligent, more athletic, more talented and more beautiful.  All her life Cody has know she is a One, and so has her boyfriend James.  They are a perfect match for each other, although his parents may not agree quite so much because Cody comes from the poor side of town.  Life seems perfect - until a single moment creates a movement that leads to the Ones becoming second class citizens, punished for the perfection that was supposed to ensure them a bright future.

It seems as thought overnight everything they have worked hard to achieve is ripped away from them - their achievements not their achievements, merely a result of their genetics.  James and his family seem to take it all in stride, watching all the changes and waiting to see what comes next.  Cody on the other hand is consumed with intense anger as everything she worked for is taken away, and she is determined to fight against the changes no matter what the cost.  Cody is soon tangled up in a web of lies and danger as some of the Ones decide to fight back - and they are not afraid to use force to fight back.

There has been a trend in recent years to write dystopian or speculative fiction and some of them have been really good, some have been mediocre, and some have been rubbish - the fact I read The Ones in a single sprint proves this is one of the good ones.  Sweren-Becker has created a world that is just around the corner and that is totally, scarily believable.  The smallest incident explodes into a huge movement that sweeps everyone up in it's path - the Ones are affected, their families are affected, and the unrest affects everyone.  There are some delightful little twists that keep you wondering what will happen right to end - and I hope, hope from the ending that there will be more in this series.

If you are looking for an excellent dystopian read for younger teens or teens who struggle with "dense" and complicated reads then I highly recommend The Ones.   

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Let's play make-believe by James Patterson and James O. Born

Christy Moore is trying to pull her life back together after her husband decided that he no longer wanted to be married to her - leaving her wondering about her future because a cast iron prenup has her cut out of his assets.  Her life seems stuck in neutral until she meets Martin "Marty" Hawking, a man whose marriage has also failed.  They start slow but things soon speed up, especially when Marty decides to spice things up with a few games.  Christy has always been on the straight and narrow, but things are about to go very much off the rails.

Bookshots have a wide variety of books in the series - some tie in with other full novel series, while others are stand alone novellas.  Let's play make-believe is a stand alone novella which means you can dive in with no background and enjoy with no strings attached!  This is a slick little thriller that kept you guessing until the very end.

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
  • Chase by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Airport code red by James Patterson and Michael White

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Empire of storms by Sarah J. Maas

Empire of storms is the fifth book in the Throne of glass series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first books in the series.  This series is best enjoyed in order so I suggest you read Throne of glassCrown of midnightHeir of fire and Queen of shadows before you read any more of this review.

After a decade in hiding as Celaena Sardothien, Aelin Ashryver Galathynius is ready to accept her birthright as Queen of Terrasen - but it seems that her people, or at least the Terrasen nobles, are not ready to accept a former assassin as their Queen.  Turned away from her homeland Aelin turns her attention to the evil Valg Prince who has finally revealed himself as the force that is stalking the land.  

Aelin may be growing into her power, but the challenge seems to get bigger to match.  She has gone from mere survival as an assassin through to an aspiring queen who has to face challenges from witches, elves, and Valg princes.  She has allies as well, but against unrelenting and vast numbers of enemies it seems as though the fight is hopeless but she won't give up.  All of her hopes and schemes are coming to fruition, but it may not be enough to stop the ancient evil that is rising on all sides.

I love, love, love this series and one of the most frustrating things about reviewing books in this series (and pretty much every book by Sarah J. Maas for that matter) is that to do a long/good review you have to offer some spoilers and I am loathe to do that so all I will say is that this series is amazing for older teens and adults alike (younger teens will struggle with some of the themes at times) - blending together all the best elements of classic epic fantasy series.  The one thing was that it was soooo long and demanded to be read in one sitting.  Looking forward to the final book in the series so we can see what is in store for Aelin and all her friends, allies, and family - because it promises to be epic!
This is an excellent series and highly recommended - but make sure you read it in order!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, September 9, 2016

Never never by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Never Never follows on from Black & Blue, part of the Bookshots series and I highly recommend reading it before picking up Never Never as it is a great read and gives you some of the background for Detective Blue.  You can also read Never Never on it's own, but you will enjoy it more after reading Black & Blue.

Detective Harriet "Harry" Blue has just had the rug pulled out from under her feet - her brother has been accused of murder and she has been sent to the middle of nowhere to escape the media circus that is about to descend on her.  The case is an excuse to get away, but it soon turns out to be more than she expected.  A miner has gone walk about from the mine, nothing that unusal for an isolated mine where people spend three weeks at a time with very little to do but work, but this time his severed foot was dragged into the camp by a dingo.  No one at the mine wants Detective Blue and her temporary partner there, the hostility is subtle for some and more open for others - and the mine bosses seem determined to put roadblocks in the way for the Detectives.

As they investigate it soon becomes clear that there is definitely more than one potential victim - other people have allegedly walked away from the camp, victims of the isolation in most peoples minds.  Harry knows there is more to the case and throws herself into the investigation, and there are some good suspects, and when others are targeted Harry is somewhat vindicated.  A killer is hunting in the mine, a killer with the weapon and skill to take out any opponent they want.  Time is running out for Harry, not only with the killer but also with her game of cat and mouse with the media.  With a partner she doesn't know if she can trust or not, and the odds stacked against her this is a case that will have deadly consequences if Detective Harry Blue can't untangle the truth.

Black & Blue was a tempting taste of Detective Harry Blue, a "tough as nails" cop who doesn't let anyone or anything get to her.  In Never Never we get to see beneath the surface a little, a glimpse of the emotional scars she carries, and the genuine confusion and self doubt about not seeing the truth about her brother.  The setting of the mine creates a tense and somewhat surreal environment, they might as well be on the moon with the isolation and quirks that everyone has.  People under pressure display weird behaviours and can crack, and that is what you see in so many of the characters in Never Never - including Harry herself in many respects. 

This is a book series that has real potential to not only blow away some of the stereotypes about female detectives, but to also explore the land Down Under.  I have said before that it is nice to have something set in my "neighbourhood" and while Australia is across the "Ditch" from New Zealand we share a lot of the same language and history and it was nice not to have to puzzle over some of the things that Americans take for granted (like what dos a bear claw look like without resorting to Google). 

This is a great series, and James Patterson and Candice Fox have created a seamless story without any stuttering or hesitation - a smooth writing style that blends their ideas together seamlessly.  Some reviewers have grumbled about the book being written to a formula, but that is true of most genre fiction and Patterson and his co-authors take you on a familiar yet exhilarating ride that challenges you to figure out whodunit before the end of the novel.  Here's hoping Patterson can find time in his busy schedule to add to this interesting and enjoyable series.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

    Wednesday, September 7, 2016

    City of the lost by Kelley Armstrong

    Detective Casey Duncan is a fighter - for herself and the people she loves.  When she was in college she was left permanently scarred when her boyfriend was arrogant enough to deal drugs on someone else's turf, and cowardly enough to rabbit when they came to teach him a lesson - leaving Casey to take the beating that should have been his.  She got her revenge, but that left her with a different kind of scar and a secret that she can't seem to keep.  The one person who gets the complicated package that is Casey Duncan is her best friend Diana, who can't seem to avoid making bad life decisions and has terrible taste in men. 

    When Diana tells Casey about a hidden town where people go to disappear it seems too good to be true, and Casey is highly suspicious, but it turns out the stories are true.  When Diana is badly beaten by her ex Casey and Diana find themselves in the small settlement of Rockton, where everyone is someone else and everyone is keeping secrets.  Sheriff Eric Dalton was desperate for a detective to join his team because a killer is hunting in Rockton, but he would happily take anyone other than Casey.  As the killer strikes again Casey has to overcome a lot of obstacles, including fending off the local residents where she is seen as an attractive prize - not hard in a town where the men out number the women.  Casey has a very short time to track down a killer, and in a town where no one is who or what they seem, that is no easy feat.  Rockton is a place to disappear and be someone else - or at least pretend to be someone else.

    City of the lost was originally published as a six-part e-book series and I am very glad that I didn't discover the story until it was crammed into one addictive volume.  I did not want to put down the book once I started, I just had to read the next page to find out what happens next, and then read the next chapter, and the next chapter.  Some reviewers have been harsh on this book, saying not so complimentary things about the characters and the way they have been written (especially Sheriff Eric Dalton) but I found that they were a perfect fit for themselves and each other.  All of the characters are damaged in one way or another, and that complexity of character works for this book.  It didn't feel like a book of more than 460 pages, it read easily and kept me fully engaged from start to finish (resenting every moment I had to put the book down to do things like work or sleep). 

    There is a chance that this could be the start of a new series, but it could also be a standalone read which is also fine.  A great read - enjoy!

    If you like this book then try:
    • Omens by Kelley Armstrong
    • Pop goes the weasel by M.J. Arlidge
    • City of fear by Alafair Burke
    • The edge of normal by Carla Norton
    • Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
    • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarratano
    • The Postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
    • One step too far by Tina Seskis
    • The basement by Stephen Leather
    • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
    • Now you see her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
    • Level 26: Dark origins by Anthony E. Zuiker and Duane Swierczynski

    Reviewed by Brilla

    Sunday, August 21, 2016

    Meg nightstalkers by Steve Alten

    Meg Nightstalkers is the fifth book in the Meg series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first four books in the series.  This is a series that can be read independently, but you get the most out of the series when you read them in order - so I recommend that you start with MegThe trenchPrimal waters and Hell's aquarium.

    It seems as though the Taylor family is destined to be at the mercy of prehistoric creatures thought long extinct.  What started with a single megaladon who devoured her mate to escape the confines of the secret world has become a saga across generations as first Jonas Taylor and then his son David have been forced to face off against prehistoric creatures that have no fear of man and no natural predators in the modern world.  Having lost decades to the sharks Jonas is now an old man plagued with the challenges of age and a seemingly never ending cycle of lawsuits and dramas from "his" sharks.  

    His son David has also tasted the pain of watching a loved one die in prehistoric jaws and it has changed him.  After a failed suicide attempt he has decided to go after the monsters that have surfaced from the depths of the ocean - including the monster that took his girlfriend right in front of him.  He is determined to get what he wants, a single minded focus that could cost him his life.  As he chases his monsters he has no idea that his father is also on a collision course with fate - because another leviathan from the distant past has found its way free to wreak havoc on the world.  

    I have often said that this series is my guilty little secret - mostly because everything about it is pretty much against what I would normally read.  I read science fiction, but not usually anything as technical as this, and I usually don't like anything that is overly "explainy" or descriptive.  This series shouldn't work, it has a far fetched premise that seems to get more far fetched with each book - but it just seems to work.  

    They have just started filming for the adaptation of the first book in the series and we have been promised at least one more book in the series, Meg generations, so it looks like I will get to indulge my guilty little secret for a little while longer at least!

    If you like this then try:

    Reviewed by Brilla

    Friday, August 19, 2016

    Bullseye by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

    Bullseye is the nineth book in the Michael Bennett series, and while they can be read independently you get the most enjoyment out of the series when you read them in order.  This review contains series ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the entire series.  I highly recommend that you read the series in order, starting with Step on a crack.

    President Buckland is visiting the great city of New York - as is the assassin hired to kill him.  A twist of fate brings Detective Michael Bennett into the case, a case that has far reaching consequences beyond the borders of his city - and maybe even beyond the borders of his country.  This is the ultimate game of cat and mouse for Bennett, the FBI and the Secret Service as they hunt for a skilled killer that travels beneath the radar with disturbing ease.  To make matters worse it seems as though there may be more than one assassin in town as a perfectly executed hit on a clandestine drug lab took two killers to pull it off.

    Bennett is used to racing against the clock, and he is used to playing catch up, but this time POTUS is in danger and if he dies on Bennett's watch then it could mean war.  While Detective Bennett is in full work mode he has no idea that danger is stalking his family and their guest, a stalker has very bad intentions indeed.  As the pressure mounts to find the assassin Bennett finds himself in the very familiar position of a race against time under very trying circumstances.  

    The Michael Bennett series is my stand out favourite series by James Patterson, and I eagerly await each new installment to see what is next for Bennett and his family.  I have seldom been disappointed by the series as Patterson and Ledwidge have an amazing writing chemistry and the books are so fast paced that you are practically reading on the edge of your seat from start to finish.  

    I have to confess to being a little disappointed with Bullseye, and I am not sure if it was because I read the first half in fits and starts, or if I read in fits and starts because it didn't grab me in the usual way.  I did enjoy the second half very  much (classic Detective Bennett fare) but I felt the first half suffered from being a little too technical - I know something about rifles and it felt like my eyes were glazing over in places.  A good addition to the Bennett series but not the best by a long shot (and it will be interesting to see where Patterson and Ledwidge take the story next!)

    If you like this book then try:
    • Step on a crack by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
    • Run for your life by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
    • Worst case by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
    • Tick tock by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
    • I, Michael Bennett by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
    • Gone by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
    • Burn by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
    • Alert by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
    • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
    • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
    • The apprentice by Tess Gerritsen
    • Kill switch by Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene
    • NYPD Red by James Patterson and Marshall Karp
    • Kill me if you can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

    Reviewed by Brilla

    Saturday, August 13, 2016

    New guard by Robert Muchamore

    New guard is the seventeenth book in the CHERUB series and while it can be enjoyed on it's own it is much better to either start at the very beginning with The recruit, or start at the beginning of the second series with People's republic.

    Life is never boring when you are CHERUB agent, but you also never know what mission might be around the corner.  When twins Leon and Daniel take the law into their own hands and help deal with a paedophile they find themselves on the receiving end of the harshest punishment in known CHERUB history - they can take it or they can quit.  It seems as though the second option might be the lesser of two evils when they find themselves involved in a new mission that soon grows to include their older brother Ryan.

    The twins simple discover and assess mission is far from simple - they have stumbled across a link between a local criminal and Islamic State.  James Adams may be a former CHERUB agent himself but even he is not fully prepared for the black mission they are about to embark on behind enemy lines.  Everyone involved in this mission has to be prepared for torture and death, because if they are captured they are officially without country or support.  As the former and present CHERUB agents prepare for the biggest mission of their lives it seems as though the odds are stacked against them.

    This is a truly challenging book to review because I don't want to give away too many spoilers!

    CHERUB is one of my favourite series for older children and teenagers so I was totally shocked to discover that New guard is being advertised as the last book in the CHERUB series!  It feels like I am losing some of my favourite characters because over the past decade the CHERUB books have been so hugely popular and because I have waited for each book to come out with eager anticipation.  If this truly is the last book in the CHERUB series then Muchamore has delivered an end to the series that is both satisfying and leaves you wanting some more - he delivers his usual high octane thrills and spills, and this time manages to truly blend together the past and present with CHERUB agents new and newly decommissioned coming together as a kind of super CHERUB that gets stuck in to get the job done.  

    If this truly is the end of the series then Muchamore has done an amazing job of bringing together the two separate strands of the story (James and co and then Ryan and co) into a single finale that is truly worthy of the name CHERUB.  As an adult reading the series it was also kind of nice to see what happened to the former CHERUB agents as they moved into their adult lives - something you don't often get to see with series for children and teenagers.

    The complete CHERUB series in order is:
    • The recruit by Robert Muchamore
    • Class A by Robert Muchamore
    • Maximum security by Robert Muchamore
    • The killing by Robert Muchamore
    • Divine madness by Robert Muchamore
    • Man vs. beast by Robert Muchamore
    • The fall by Robert Muchamore
    • Mad dogs by Robert Muchamore
    • The sleepwalker by Robert Muchamore
    • The general by Robert Muchamore
    • Brigands M.C by Robert Muchamore
    • Shadow wave by Robert Muchamore
    • People's republic by Robert Muchamore
    • Guardian angel by Robert Muchamore
    • Black Friday by Robert Muchamore
    • Lone wolf by Robert Muchamore

    If you like this book then try:
                                         Reviewed by Brilla

                                        Thursday, July 28, 2016

                                        (Don't you) forget about me by Kate Karyus Quinn

                                        Gardnerville is a a magical place - the towns people never get cancer or other serious illnesses, they live long lives, and people born in Gardnerville can develop the most amazing abilities.  There is a price to pay for this paradise though, and every four years something goes seriously wrong, a teenager goes off the rails and other teenagers end up dead.  The culprit is always punished, sent to the reformatory on the top of the hill to pay their dues, returning to the town a husk of their former selves.  It is the way that Gardnerville works, when one of the teenagers does something wrong they pay for their crimes and in turn keep the wheels of the town turning.

                                        Four years ago Skylar's sister Piper lead her classmates on to the trestle bridge and told them to jump, and not everyone made it out of the water that night.  Piper was taken away to the reformatory and Skylar fell into the purple embrace of the forget-me-nots - but now it seems they are not enough.  Skylar is desperate to find Piper and is willing to do whatever it takes to find her, no easy feat with gaping holes in her memory.  Determined to find the truth Skylar throws herself into the search with no concern for the cost - or the consequences.  Garnerville is full of secrets, the perfect hunting ground for a person like Skylar - who can steal the secrets from your head and your heart.

                                        (Don't you) forget about me is the third book I have read from Kate Karyus Quinn and I was once again very impressed by her originality and refusal to conform to genre norms.  While I didn't find (Don't you) forget about me to be quite as polished and well written as her Down with the shine, which makes sense as it is an older book, the same strong characters and well defined mythology made this an addictive read that I couldn't put aside or skim read because each morsel was carefully doled out throughout the story and kept me reading right to the end.  I thought I had figured out the story quite early on, and while I was partly right I was also sideswiped by some very sneaky little secrets revealed at the end of the novel.  

                                        Skylar is a classic Quinn character, she is strong and weak at the same time, determined and broken, and she is a character that you can relate to.  The small town setting of Gardnerville is a perfect vehicle for this story, a small town has a certain feel and certain rules that make this story come to life.  In a small town everyone knows everyone else, and everyone knows everyone elses business, and when a small town is isolated in the way Gardnerville is it is so easy for things to go wrong (like they do in Gardnerville).  The mythology of Gardnerville is mind blowing and realistic - people really would risk it all for the chance to live a long and healthy life.  The other characters that make up the cast are also well defined and equally perfect/flawed.  

                                        If you don't like the first few chapters give it a chance because once the story has you hooked you really will be hooked.  Some people might find the alternating past and present chapters annoying, but as the novel develops the time switches help drive the story forward as each little clue is slowly released and you build a picture of what is really happening in Gardnerville.  Hopefully there are many more genre defying books from Quinn as this was another great read from a uniquer voice in current young adult/teen fiction.

                                        If you like this book then try:

                                        Reviewed by Brilla