Friday, May 11, 2018

Now you see by Max Manning

It starts with the murder of Lauren Bishop, a young woman who dies publicly - a before and after picture splashed across the screens of users all over the world thanks to the social media power of Instagram and a clever username of @IKiller.  For Detective Chief Inspector Dan Fenton the murder is shocking, because not only did the killer take a life, they shared the murder through social media.  The Police race to shut down the account, but with anonymous emails the norm, tracking the killer themselves is going to be tricky.  When a second victim is murdered, and the death is shared through another social media platform it becomes clear that they are not dealing with an ordinary killer, they are dealing with a serial killer who is trying to engage with the world through popular social media platforms.

Lauren's former boyfriend is an obvious suspect for the murder, especially as they broke up, but he has an alibi for her murder.  That doesn't stop the Police from keeping him on the suspects list - especially when the second body, and then a third body appear.  For DCI Fenton it is the worst kind of case, not only is the killer clever and seemingly intent on taunting the Police, the killer also seems on step ahead of the Police.  As the body count continues to grow Fenton is under increasing pressure at work and at home - and as the killer becomes bolder he finds himself making choices he never thought he would make.

Now you see me is an intriguing read that raises some interesting questions for the reader - if a killer like IKiller existed would you look at the images online and become part of the story?  This is a story that could have been taken from the headlines, a shocking story of a calculating killer and the Police team that seems to be constantly one step behind - a story that challenges you to figure out what is happening before the conclusion.  This is a well crafted story with a clever premise and some very punchy chapters that keep you hooked from the first page - and one of those stories that is a nightmare to review because of the things that make the story so good are the little twists and clues dropped along the way.


If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, May 4, 2018

The extinction trials by S.M. Wilson

Stormchaser lives on Earthasia, a continent straining under the massive human population that is always increasing.  With resources stretched thin it is no surprise that there is a shortage of food, medical care, and housing.  Storm lives in the Shelters, housing for teenagers orphaned and left alone, and as long as she follows the rules she gets the bare basics to survive - a roof over her head and just enough food to keep her from starving.  Every year an expedition is sent from Earthasia to the neighbouring continent of Piloria, a land rich with food and space - the only catch is that it is also inhabited by ferocious flesh eating dinosaurs.  

Death is almost guaranteed for the one hundred volunteers who complete the Trials and travel to Piloria, but that doesn't stop people from trying to get there as the rewards are great.  This year the winner will get enough food for themselves and their family, and access to medical care.  For Storm the promise of food is what draws her to the Trials, even though she only plans to take part and not win, she will have several days where she gets enough to eat.  For Lincoln there is no playing the game, he has to win because his sister Arta is dying from an illness that has already killed too many people. 

When they both beat the odds and make it through the Trials it is only the start of their troubles, because the trip to Piloria can be deadly and the dinosaurs that seemed scary on paper are terrifying in real life.  As Storm and Lincoln work alongside their fellow Trialists they slowly learn that there is more to the Trials than they suspected, and that nothing is what it seems.  Storm doesn't want to see the dinosaurs wiped out, and she doesn't trust that the Stipulators will just focus on the dangerous dinosaurs, but she has to play their game if she is going to save herself.

The extinction trials has been described in one review as "The hunger games meets Jurassic Park" and I can't help but feel that is something of a disservice for this intriguing and highly readable book as I know it has put off at least one reader who doesn't like to read dystopian reads which is a real shame because The extinction trials was a real treat!  Told from the different viewpoints of Storm and Lincoln, the story builds from a relatively straight forward story about two teenagers trying to survive to a story about social control, how people are manipulated by people in power, and that nothing is really what it seems.  

Storm and Lincoln are both highly relateable characters, as are the people who inhabit their lives in one way or another.  The story is well balanced, with the action and plot building towards a satisfying conclusion (that also leaves you wanting the next book in the series).  One of the most intriguing things for me about this series is wondering which direction the author is going as there are hints that it is in the alternate history genre, and it could also be in the science fiction genre, and maybe even a fantasy genre ... it will be interesting to see where it goes!  This is one of the best reads for me this year so far, and it deserves to be discovered and read because it will appeal to a wide range of readers.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, April 20, 2018

Tooth and claw by Nigel McCrery

Tooth and claw is the sequel to Still waters and while you can read the books separately you will enjoy the series more if you read the books in order.

DCI Mark Lapslie is good at his job, but his synaesthesia makes it challenging (if not downright impossible) to do his job in the normal, expected fashion.  Working on reports for the higher ups keeps him gainfully employed, but his superiors seem determined to push him into applying for early retirement on medical grounds and he is too stubborn and determined to let them push him out.  When he is assigned not one, but two different murder cases the pressure builds, and it becomes increasingly difficult for Lapslie to keep his condition under wraps. 

It might be the stress he's under, but it also seems like the symptoms of his synaesthesia are getting worse, despite doing everything he can to keep it hidden as the case progresses he is exposed to his colleagues in rather spectacular fashion.  With his professional life starting to unravel at the seams, and with challenging cases to solve the one saving grace for Lapslie is the unswerving support of his DS - Emma Bradbury.

This series is a real pain to review because all the tasty little tidbits you would normally put in the review would be spoilers for the little twists and turns that make this series so interesting.  I loved the character development, especially watching the way the killer slowly comes under the spotlight and you learn more about him.  We also get to learn more about both DCI Lapslie and DS Bradbury which makes it easier to connect with them as characters and helps expose some of what makes them tick.  It will be interesting to see how the characters develop over time, and how McCrery keeps the storylines fresh and engaging once the surprise of Lapslie's synaesthesia wears off.

If you like this book then try:


Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Time bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

Six young lives are about to change for ever, wrenched apart and shaken by multiple explosions in their high school.  Each of them has a reason to be at school, and each of them is keeping secrets or keeping part of themselves hidden.  Rashid is a young man struggling with his identity, struggling to find a balance between practicing his faith and fitting in with his "American" classmates.  Cas is struggling to fit into her new school, pressure from her family to lose weight, be more sociable, be more popular is more than she can stand.  Frankie and Tad are struggling with a relationship that has changed and yet not changed, heading towards a line that one of them might not be ready to cross.  Diana is tired of being the perfect politicians daughter, always pushing her own thoughts and feelings aside to make her father look good.  Recently orphaned by the death of his mother, Z is failing out of school and about to lose his home, but he has a plan.

Six young people all keeping secrets from their friends and families - six young lives about to be changed in the worst way possible.  Trapped in a building that has been badly damaged by multiple explosions, and with part of the building on fire it seems grim.  When they learn that the bomber has been caught it is not the good news they needed, the bomber was not working alone, and according to the news reports on the radio the bomber has a partner who is still in the school.  Trying to escape is hard enough, but when suspicions grow about who the bombers partner could be tension turns to accusations and threats.

Books like Time bomb run the risk of becoming purely didactic and artificial, the author preaching at their audience rather than connecting the reader with a story that needs to be told.  Some authors tackle these topics with amazing skill and insight - to the point that you don't even realise there is a message - while others are like a sledge hammer nailing home their message with little finesse or skill.  Time bomb falls somewhere in between these two extremes, as while Charbonneau does build her characters, keeps the tension high, and generally makes an effort to make the characters and their stories relatable it just lacks a spark - though for me this could be mainly because I guessed who the bomber was very early and it then felt a little like she was going through the motions.

Do I think this was a book that needed to be written - yes.  Does it provide valuable insight into the pressures teenagers face at school and in their lives in general - yes.  Do I think this book might have benefitted from one more draft - yes, just to tie the story more tightly together and make it more about the characters rather than the bombing.  Don't get me wrong, this was a good book, but I think with a little more polish it could have been a great book or even an amazing book.


If you like this book then try:
  • NEED by Joelle Charbonneau
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • What waits in the woods by Kieran Scott
  • Burning blue by Paul Griffin
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • Missing Judy by Anne Cassidy
  • Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy
  • Hate list by Jennifer Brown
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick
  • Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher
  • I swear by Lane Davis
  • The mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
  • Thousand words by Jennifer Brown

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, April 2, 2018

Alien tango by Gini Koch

Alien tango is the second book in the Alien series, and while you can read it as a stand alone you will get more out of the book if you read Touched by an alien first.  This review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not already read Touched by an alien so I highly recommend reading the series in order.

After all the excitement and action of her introduction to Superbeings and the team from Alpha Centauri coming down to business as usual is a more than a little frustrating for Katherine "Kitty" Katt.  Sure, she has an amazing relationship with her team of human and Alpha Centauri operatives, but things have been rather quiet over the past six months and she is starting to get twitchy for some action.  They say you should be careful what you wish for, and that is certainly the case for Kitty and her team because they go from zero to crisis point in a matter of hours when a ship that was sent on a long range mission to Mars returns to Earth in a most unexpected fashion.  Flying by the seat of her pants, and based mainly on intuition, Kitty manages to get involved right in the thick of the action (as usual). 

In the midst of chaos Kitty is in her element, but it's also the last place Jeff Martini wants her to be - and when he gets worried he gets uber protective and sulky.  As Kitty, Jeff, and the rest of their team start to uncover the different layers of the conspiracy against them they quickly realise that this time they can't stop the big bad by the usual methods - this is an enemy where working smarter is the key, not using bigger weapons.  Fighting the enemy is what they are quickly becoming used to, but what happens when the person who feels like an enemy is your family?  The time has finally come for Kitty to meet Jeff's family and it is going to be a somewhat bumpy ride for everyone because Kitty is not your typical A-C female, and when she sees something wrong she deals with it.  

I first read Touched by an alien over three years ago, and seeing another book in the series made me decide to re-read it and I am glad I did because it reminded me how much I had enjoyed the book and I dove straight into reading Alien tango to keep the roller coaster ride going.  Alien tango picks up a few months after Touched by an alien and while there are common threads through the series so far, each book does have a focus on a different conspiracy and enemy for the team to deal with.  Kitty is one of my favourite anti-heroes, mainly because she doesn't care what people think about her and she is not afraid to fight for what she believes in (and is not so tough that she also doesn't burst into tears occasionally). 

The cast of A-C characters also adds to the charm of the series because the way they react to things and the way they function is just so - alien.  Sometimes the differences result in laugh out loud moments, sometimes they result in eye rolling moments, and sometimes you just go "huh".  Jeff Martini and Christopher White create quite a few comic moments because of who they are for the A-C community, and also because of who they are - and the A-C women add some great moments too.  It is interesting that Koch has been able to create such a human seeming alien race, and she has deftly inserted them into the human race in a way that makes sense and you can easily picture a race of aliens living amongst Earths people just like this.  

Currently waiting for the third book in the series to arrive so I can keep the fun going and see where Koch takes Kitty and Jeff next - because it is bound to be a thrill ride, but it is also hard to see how she can top what happened in the first two books in the series.

If you like this book then try:
  • Children of the night by Mercedes Lackey
  • Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff
  • Spiders bite by Jennifer Estep
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Angel's blood by Nalini Singh
  • Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara
  • Kitty and the midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Undead and unwed by MaryJanice Davidson
  • Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander
  • Eight million gods by Wen Spencer
  • Alien taste by Wen Spencer
  • Tinker by Wen Spencer
  • Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway
  • Prowlers by Christopher Golden

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, March 30, 2018

Red alert by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

Red alert is the fifth book in the NYPD Red series and while it can be read as a stand alone book, it is best enjoyed as part of the rest of the series.  If you choose to keep reading this review there are ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in the earlier books.

When you're part of NYPD Red you know that at least part of your day is going to be spent kissing butts and stroking egos - even when there is a crime to solve and not much time to solve it in.  Detectives Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald are the core team at NYPD Red and they are at the top of their game, which is both a hindrance and a help when it comes to solving crimes.  When they are roped into joining the security detail for Mayor Sykes it seems like an annoyance rather than a chore, but when a bomb explodes at the charity fundraiser they're attending the find themselves at ground zero for the crime and the start of a challenging case.  The mayor wants the case solved and what the mayor wants she gets.  When a second man dies at the hands of the same bomber it becomes clear that the case is bigger than they thought.

Because life is never simple for the overworked detectives of the NYPD the bomber is not the only case for Jordan and MacDonald to solve - and every case is considered a priority that needs their attention.  It is almost impossible to ignore a death like Aubrey Davenport's though, especially when she has the poor taste to die in a compromising position in a public place, and as the detectives dig deeper into her story they realise that the case may not be cut and dried either.  With pressure from all sides Jordan and MacDonald are going to have to keep their wits about them, especially when a third unofficial case falls in their lap.  

The NYPD Red series has been lots of fun to discover, and the chemistry between the main characters of Jordan and MacDonald is interesting and familiar without drifting too far into cliché and the overly familiar.  The cast is well developed and growing to include more interesting characters, and there are some laugh out loud moments among the more serious storylines.  It was a long wait for this instalment in the NYPD Red series but it was worth the wait and we can only hope the next instalment is not too far away!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The lost ones by Sheena Kamal

Nora Watts is very good at staying under the radar, a recovering alcoholic who is always one temptation away from falling off the wagon.  Avoiding her past, her memories, and a gaping hole in her memory means that Nora lives very much in the now and keeps everyone at arms length.  The only living thing that spends any real time with her is Whisper, a dog that she rescued from the streets and seems to regard Nora with as a source of food an grudging companionship.  Nora lives life on the edge, her only real contact with people is her work as a researcher for a private ye where she uses her natural lie detecting ability to help solve cases.  Her employer knows she has secrets, but as those secrets have never impacted on her work he has left her those secrets - but secrets can't stay buried forever.

When Nora receives an early morning phone call she doesn't know the caller but he knows about her and the child she gave up for adoption fifteen years earlier.  That phone call starts Nora down a path that will force her to confront her past and her present, something she has been avoiding by deliberately trying to forget.  She may have given birth to Bonnie, but apart from a brief moment in hospital she has never had a relationship with her daughter - though from what her adoptive parents have to say there may be something to the nurture versus nature debate.  When another ghost from her past reappears it becomes clear that there is more to Bonnie's disappearance than a teenage girl looking for her birth mother and if Nora can't untangle her memories, along with the secrets and lies, then she may never come back from facing her past.

The lost ones was a harrowing story with a unique voice that will stay with me for some time.  Nora is an almost perfect anti-hero, tortured by her past and battling her tendency to be an alcoholic.  Facing the case of her missing birth daughter forces her to not only face her past, but also face the truths that she doesn't want to see.  Nora is a product of her past and as the novel proceeds each layer of protection she has built is stripped away, and it is no surprise that she makes some very difficult decisions along the way.  I would challenge anyone to read The lost ones and not come away feeling for Nora and all she has faced in her past, and the inner strength she shows in unexpected ways.  A must read, and it will be interesting to see if Kamal continues to write books in this style as it was interesting and engaging and deserves to be read.

This book was also published in the United Kingdom under the title Eyes like mine.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, March 19, 2018

Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz

Hellbent is the sequel to Orphan X and The Nowhere man, and while you can read the books independently there are ***SPOILERS*** in this review if you have not read the first books in the series.  I highly recommend reading the books in order for the ultimate reading experience.

It's a voice from his past that sets Evan Smoak, currently known as The Nowhere man and formerly known as Orphan X on his latest race against the clock.  With a target painted on his back it is only a matter of time until he caught by the head of the Orphan Program, and is the wrong time to pick up complications - but that is exactly what happens when Jack Johns asks Evan to go to an address and look after the package.  It turns out the package is a teenage girl with a complicated story that fits perfectly with the rest of the Orphan Program and the damage it leaves in it's wake.

Used to working on his own, Evan struggles to cope with suddenly having someone else to care for - especially as Joey doesn't want his help, and resents his assumptions that she can't take care of herself.  With a hit squad and two Orphans hunting him down on Van Sciver's orders it seems like its only a matter of time before the noose tightens and Evan and Joey fall.  But Evan is not that easy to kill, he may be up against superior numbers but he is also an Orphan and with someone to protect he is more determined than ever.  With a new person to help, Joey in tow and operatives actively targeting him Evan is in for one hell of a ride.

Hellbent is the third gripping installment in the Orphan X series and while I would have enjoyed reading it on it's own, having the back story from the previous two books made it an even more thrilling and enjoyable ride.  Hurwitz has a knack for creating characters that you care about, and putting them in situations that are both adrenaline fueled and realistic.  Thanks to a healthy dose of thrillers, action and crime novels (not to mention a healthier dose of watching action movies and TV series) it is easy to get jaded and feel like you've seen everything before - but Evan Smoak and his world of Orphans is at the same time familiar and refreshingly new.  

This is a series that deserves to be discovered and the things Evan uncovers in Hellbent make it clear that we have not see the last of the Orphans programme.  I highly, highly recommend that you try and read Hellbent in one sitting because having to put it down was very frustrating when all I wanted to do was know what was coming next!

If you like this book then try:
  • Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
  • The killing kind by Chris Holm
  • Breaking Creed by Alex Kava
  • The Postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • The basement: A novel  by Stephen Leather
  • City of the lost by Kelley Armstrong
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • Truth or die by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
  • Dead secret by Ava McCarthy
  • Never never by James Patterson and Candice Fox
  • Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeffry P. Lindsay
  • Kiss the girls by James Patterson
  • Kill me if you can by James Patterson and Marshall Kamp

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Honor among thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre

Zara Cole lives in The Lower Eight, far from the bright and shiny of Paradise, living the life she chose and following the laws of the streets.  Her life is a challenging but simple one - steal enough to survive the streets, don't rat out her fellow residents, and escape if she is sent to a rehabilitation facility.  It isn't an easy life, but it's the one she chose, staying on Earth while her mother and sister moved to Mars.  When Zara steals from the wrong mark she discovers that her life in The Lower Eight isn't as secure as she thought.  Running from a powerful player who wants what she took, Zara runs to the only place she thinks she will be safe - but safety is an illusion when money and power can get you anything you want.  

Her salvation is a complete surprise  - Zara is chosen as one of the Honors, the people chosen to travel the stars for one year in the company of a Leviathan.  For many on Earth the Leviathan are saviours, swooping in to save the Earth when it was on the brink of collapse, sharing their knowledge and asking for very little in return.  Accepting the offer to join the Honors programme is a no brainer for Zara, if she doesn't accept then she won't last long, but the programme is not without it's own risks. 

Zara and one of her fellow Honors,  Beatriz, are partnered with Nadim, a Leviathan who is facing his own challenges, and from the start it appears that they are a good match - although in the eyes of the elder Leviatthan that would be debatable.  As Zara and Beatriz learn more about each other and Nadim Zara starts to relax and feel at home, an unsettling feeling for someone who distrusts everyone.  This journey will test Zara, Beatriz and Nadim and push them all to their limits, and when they discover the truth about the Honors programme it will change their lives forever.

Honor among thieves is a deftly written and thoroughly engrossing science fiction novel that may be aimed at teenagers, but has a much wider appeal.  Zara is a strong character, pushing against the "establishment" but it isn't a mindless rebellion, and as we learn more about her across the course of the story we come to realise why she is the way she is - and it feels "right".  Balancing the story of Zara is the story of Nadim, a story that runs parallel and equally - he may be a ship, but he is also a fully developed character in his own right which makes the story more engaging and more real.  The other characters who make up the cast of the story has their own voices that weave together to make a completely believable whole.  The only real drawback for me is that now I have to wait for the next book in the series to see what happens next because the ending was ... wow.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, March 9, 2018

Murder beyond the grave by James Patterson

Murder beyond the grave is one of a series of books written to tie-in with the Murder is forever television series.  Each book in the series includes two stories based on actual events that have been slightly fictionalised, but that doesn't take away from the stories covered.

Stephen Small has everything he wants in life - a loving wife, three sons, and enough money to live comfortably.  For one man Stephen is a source of resentment and jealously, a man who has everything he could want and more - more than enough to cover a ransom demand.  Danny Edwards has lost it all, he squandered his chances growing up, and then lost it all when he was busted for drug dealing and had to earn an honest living.  Chafing at the new restrictions on his life Danny hatches a plan to get the money he needs to live the life he thinks he deserves, and Stephen Small is the key to his plan.  Things don't go as planned however, and he destroys the lives of everyone involved in the case.

Bonnie Hood is the proud new owner of Camp Nelson Lodge, a property she visited as a young girl and that she hopes to bring back to its former glory.  Her husband Jim is also an owner, but her dedication to the project means he only gets to see her in the weekends when he visits with the children.  The redevelopment takes time, and as she makes changes Bonnie ruffles the feathers of the locals, who have come to see the Camp tavern as theirs.  As she continues the development Bonnie receives death threats - and then the unthinkable happens and she is gunned down in the night.  The crime may not be as simple as it seems, but the Police are determined to catch the killer.

These two compelling stories are intriguing and disturbing in turn - what drives a person to commit crimes like these?  While I am not usually a fan of fictionalised real life stories, Patterson has done an excellent job of remaining sensitive to the victims.  In many ways these stories are scarier than anything he could have dreamed up in one of his own stories because these are real murders with real motivations, and people that you can realise despise for what they have done.  This has been an engaging series to read (not to mention somewhat disturbing) and it will be interesting to see if there are more books in the series.

If you are interested in reading more real life reads and true crime stories then try some of the these books:

Reviewed by Brilla