Friday, April 19, 2019

Siege by Chris Ryan

Max Johnson is an orphan, which is lonely in more ways than one - but Max doesn't let it get him down.  Living in a residential care home gives him a place to live and call home, but it doesn't give him a family.  He throws himself into activities like Combined Cadet Force training, and because he excels at it his school pays for him to attend a week long camp climbing in the Lakes District.  All Max dreams about is joining the Army when he grows up, and the camp will add another layer to his skills - even if he has to put up with being the outsider because his fellow campers know he is an orphan living in a care home.

When disaster strikes on a big climb, it is Max who has to come to the rescue - using his knowledge of climbing gained from experience, YouTube, and books to help pull them out of a dangerous and life threatening situation.  Max didn't step in for fame and glory, but he also didn't expect to be whisked away in a helicopter by a mysterious man who won't even tell Max who he is.  The mystery is soon unraveled when Max discovers that the man has brought him to the Special Forces Cadets selections camp.  Max is determined to make the most of being at the camp, but not everyone is happy he is there and joining the Special Forces Cadets is going to be an uphill fight.  Can Max prove himself and finish the grueling selection test?

Siege is the start of a new series by Chris Ryan, and if the first book is anything to go on this series has great promise.  From the start it is easy to connect with Max and his story, and through the story that connection and sympathy grows stronger.  Ryan has a knack for writing series that are easy to believe are real, the training and testing Max and the rest of the teenagers go through seems quite realistic - as do the individual traits and characteristics of each person.  

The writing style is punchy and moves at a rapid pace which adds some nice tension to the story but doesn't bury you in detail.  In short - this is another fantastic teen read from Chris Ryan and hopefully the rest of the series is just as good as it means there will be quite a few good books to look forward to over the coming years.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Out of the dark by Gregg Hurwitz

Out of the dark is the sequel to Orphan X, The Nowhere man, and Hellbent 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.

Orphan X is done hiding in the shadows and waiting for death to find him, he is going to kill the man who has set death on his tail and he is going to take him out first.  It's a bold move, and a tricky move, because how can one man hope to take down the President of the United States - one of the most heavily protected men in the world.  It is going to take all of his training, and all of his skills to unpick the levels of protection around the President and find a vulnerable spot he can exploit.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the threat posed by President Bennett is very real, not only for Evan but for every Orphan ever trained.

President Bennett knows Orphan X is after him and he will use every weapon at his disposal to try and stop him - including arranging for the release of Orphan A, who has a very personal grudge against Orphan X.  The Secret Service is on high alert for danger, and while one man shouldn't pose a threat , Orphan X quickly shows just how highly trained and dangerous he is.  Hunted by law enforcement, the Secret Service, and Orphan A Evan should have no chance at success - but this is a fight he is desperate to win and desperate times call for desperate measures - and deals he wouldn't normally make.

As Evan's window of opportunity slowly closes the Nowhere Man receives a phone call from a young man whose family has been targeted by a man who is used to getting what he wants through violence and threats.  The timing couldn't be worse as the last thing Evan needs is a distraction, especially when that distraction burrows under his layers of defences and makes him put aside some of the training and rules that he has followed for so long.  As his window of opportunity draws closer so does an increasing conflict of interest as there may not be time for Orphan X to do his thing at the same time as the Nowhere Man needs to do his thing - which will Evan choose, duty or revenge?  For the first time Evan has really been pushed to the edge, and when you're desperate you will cross lines that you wouldn't normally cross.

The Orphan X series has been a great read right from the start with complicated and well developed characters and a hero you can't help but like - even if he does seem as prickly and standoffish as his cactus sometimes.  Each book in the series has built on the previous story, and with each book we learn more about Evan and his world - complete with some rather spectacular bombshells along the way.  I highly recommend this series to anyone who likes thrillers and crime stories - and I will recommend it to other people who are just looking for a good book.  Sometimes the name dropping becomes a little bit much with the brand names, but other than that there is a lot to like about this series.  Now comes the wait to see what happens next for Orphan X.

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
  • 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 24, 2019

Girls of paper and fire by Natasha Ngan

Lei lives in a world ruled by the Moon caste - demons with animal features that can be beautiful or terrifying.  The Moon caste rules over the fully human Paper caste who are the lowest members of society, and the Steel caste who straddle both worlds by being mostly human with some demon features.  It is a world where everyone knows their place from the moment they are born, and everyone answers to the Demon King.  There is nothing special about Lei apart from her eyes, golden eyes like a demons.

Life in the Paper caste is hard but not unbearable, even though her mother was snatched away in the night years ago in a night of terror when the village was raided.  It may have made her family smaller, but Lei has the love and support of her father and the familiar surroundings of the family shop to keep her going.  Her life is abruptly upended when a General from the Demon Kings army arrives and drags her away to become one of this years Paper Girl - something that is supposed to be an honour, but Lei doesn't see it that way.

Life in the Hidden Palace is full of danger and intrigue, and Lei is unprepared for just how dangerous her new life is.  The Paper Girls may be treated as precious, but that is only because they are the property of the Demon King and no man may touch his property - and no one may deny him.  As the days turn into weeks Lei struggles to settle into life in the Hidden City, and as time goes by and she learns more about her new world the more the struggle grows.  There is danger and intrigue in the City, and not everyone is what they seem.  Lei is about to discover the danger of having a mind of her own, and she will also learn what happens when you deny a powerful man.  Can Lei discover the secrets swirling around her before it's too late?

Girls of paper and fire was an amazing read - the characters were well developed and filled a world that made instant sense and provided a backdrop for a complex social structure.  Right from the start Ngan treated her teen readers to a genuine story without pulling any punches or softening the violence of her world.  There is a very good reason there is a warning at the start of the book saying that it contains scenes of violence and sexual violence - this is not a book for 'tweens and younger teens as there are complex social issues and themes that make even adult readers uncomfortable.  

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Kingdom of the blazing phoenix by Julie C. Dao

Kingdom of the blazing phoenix is the sequel to Forest of a thousand lanterns and there are ***SPOILERS*** in this review if you have not read the first book in the series.  This is a series that needs to be read in order so make sure you read Forest of a thousand lanterns before you read the rest of the review or the book.

Jade has lived a simple life in the monastery, working alongside the monks to tend their gardens and care for the villagers in the surrounding country.  Only her Amah and the abbess know that Jade is not a simple peasant - she is the princess and heir to the kingdom.  Summoned to the capital by her stepmother Xifeng, Jade starts on a journey that will take her far from home and everything familiar.  The world of the imperial court could not be more different from the world she has grown up in, the extravagant gowns she wears would help the monastery support hundreds of peasants, and the lavish food is something she had never imagined.  It is a world of secrets, intrigues, and people hiding their true intentions and natures behind carefully crafted masks.

When Jade discovers what her stepmother is really like she is forced to flee from the imperial city, a fugitive accused of crimes she didn't commit.  Along with her companions there is only one home for not only Jade, but also her entire kingdom - she must complete the dangerous quest to find and reunite the hidden treasures of the five kingdoms.  If Jade can succeed in her quest she will call forth ah army taht will be capable of stopping Xifeng and the army of the Serpent God she controls.  The quest will not be easy, she will have to remember the stories that Amah told her, and solve puzzles that can have deadly consequences if she gets the wrong answer.  As she searches across the five kingdoms she must always be aware of Kang and the serpent warriors who dog their steps the entire way.  Jade never wanted to be anything more than a monk, but now the fate of the entire kingdom rests in her hands.

Kingdom of the blazing phoenix is the perfect companion novel to Forest of a thousand lanterns and it brings the duology to a very satisfying end.  In the first book the focus is on Xifeng and how she rises to power, what she sacrifices to become empress and the cunning manipulation of the Serpent God to get what he wants.  By the time we reached the end of Forest of a thousand lanterns she had slipped from young girl to powerful and cunning empress, and her path for conflict with Jade was set.  In Kingdom of the blazing phoenix we see the results and a story that seems to echo the story of Snow White more strongly, but it is an echo only because Julie C. Dao has taken that rather simple fairy tale and created a world that is richly layered with depth of culture, history, and characters.

With this series we see that the 'villain' is not always that villainous, sometimes they are a victim of circumstance and fate too.  I love worlds that make sense with a deep mythology that you can follow and adds depth to the story, and Dao has created a mythology that feels completely real.  Jade and her companions travel on a quest that creates challenges and conflicts, and also makes them grow and change as people which makes it feel more genuine and engaging.  There are some amazing themes in this series, and there is scope for Dao to create more stories in this world (something that would be amazing).  A must read for fans of richly imagined fantasy worlds - including adults!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, February 3, 2019

You don't own me by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

You don't own me is the fifth book in the Under suspicion series that began with I've got you under my skin by Mary Higgins Clark.  While you can read this book on it's own, there are some ***SPOILERS*** if you have not already read the rest of the series.  I recommend reading the first book in the series before reading any others.

Life is never dull for Laurie Moran, her successful television show Under Suspicion has been solving cold cases and making a killing in the ratings, and she is planning her wedding to her former host Alex Buckley.  With the success of her show it is no surprise that people reach out to her asking her to help solve their case, and while there is only so much they can do it doesn't stop desperate people taking desperate measures to reach her.  When the parents of Dr. Martin Bell approach her about making the next show about the murder of their beloved son, she is surprised to learn that they think she turned them down - a surprise to Laurie as she had not proceeded with the idea because his widow Kendra refused to cooperate.  With pressure from the family mounting, Laurie tries to persuade Kendra to take part this time and is a little surprised when she reluctantly agrees.

As she starts researching the case, Laurie discovers that there are two very different sides to the story - the ones the Bell's want her to believe, and what Laurie is slowly starting to uncover.  When the victim was seen as a pillar of the community it is always challenging to dig beneath the surface, especially when the wife seems to make the perfect killer, but Laurie is determined to continue with the case.  As the case slowly starts heating up, Laurie is also pushing forward with trying to find a new home for her growing family, and with some very definite things on their 'must haves' list they are slowly driving their real estate agent to distraction.  Being such a public figure makes both Laurie and Alex an attractive target, and when someone is ready to take you down, being a public figure won't save you.

The Under suspicion series has been a great find, and I eagerly keep an eye out for the next book in the series.  Laurie Moran holds her own as an investigative journalist in this series, and as the series develops and grows so does she.  The cast of characters around her are interesting and are increasingly characters in their own rights, evolving into people rather than just a supporting cast.  As with previous books in the series the element of suspense is hugely important in You don't own me, and it is part of the fun to try and figure out where the story is taking you before the end.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Little white lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Sawyer Taft has lived her whole life knowing that her grandmother threw her pregnant teenage mother out of the family home, and it has just been Sawyer and her mother ever since.  She's fine with it though, over the years they have found a rhythm that works for them - even though most of the time it seems like Sawyer is the grown up and not her mother.  When her mother disappears to spend quality time with a man she met at the bar she works in, the last person Sawyer expected to see was her estranged grandmother, and she definitely wasn't expecting an offer she couldn't refuse.  Her estranged grandmother will give Sawyer enough money to see her through college and a good start in life, and all she wants from Sawyer is her participation in the debutante season.

Sawyer soon discovers that debutantes are not sweet little girls, they are as manipulative and cunning as they are polished and poised.  While taking part in debutante season gives her the chance to get to know her family and please her grandmother, it is also a chance to solve the one big mystery of her life - who her father is.  As Sawyer gets to know her fellow debs she comes to realise that every family has it's secrets, and that everyone has something they can use against someone else.  As Sawyer chases potential clues and learns more about her grandmother and mother, she grows closer to the truth and closer to danger.  

Jennifer Lynn Barnes has a knack for writing characters that are easy to connect with, and who go through trials and challenges that shape them into something new - and Sawyer is no exception.  At the start she seems like a totally tough and no nonsense character, but it soon becomes clear that there is a lot more to her than meets the eye, and a lot more to her story that we are yet to discover.  The debutantes are interesting characters in their own rights, as are the family members and friends who revolve around them. 

The rich background of the deb season with all the mysteries, traditions, tensions, and possibilities for things to go wrong just act to make the story more engaging and exciting.  The way the story moves from the past to the present and back builds the tension without revealing too many secrets too quickly, and creates moments where you can try and puzzle out what is coming next.  

If you like this book then try:
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • Acceleration by Graham McNamee
  • Hate list by Jennifer Brown
  • Guy Langman, crime scene procrastinator by Josh Berk
  • A girl named Digit by Annabel Monahgan
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • Nickel plated by Aric Davis
  • Dead to you by Lisa McMann
  • Crime seen by Jenny Pausacker
  • Burning blue by Paul Griffin
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Such a pretty girl by Laura Wiess
  • Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, January 7, 2019

Not even bones by Rebecca Schaeffer

For Nita and her mother the 'family business' is selling parts of supernatural beings on the black market.  Over the years they have developed a rhythm, a pattern where Nita's mother brings home the remains of supernatural beings and Nita slowly dissects them to make the most of the remains - skin, nails, blood, and bone are all valuable if you have the right buyer.  It is a routine that brings Nita a certain amount of peace and routine, and she dreams about attending university one day and becoming a well known expert on the supernatural.  All that changes when Nita's mother brings home a live teenage boy and expects Nita to help her carve him up piece by piece.  Confronted with a living, breathing person instead of a corpse Nita does the unthinkable and defies her mother - setting the boy loose and helping him on his way.

Nita knew she was taking a risk, the last time her mother punished her severely for disobeying her, but the last thing Nita expected was to end up on the wrong side of the bars.  Reeling from the shock of being captured and imprisoned, Nita can only conclude that her mother kept her promise to punish her the next time she disobeyed and has sold her into the black market she once supplied.  Being a prisoner is a shock, especially when she learns that people want to eat her piece by piece because Nita isn't just a supernatural processor - she is a supernatural herself.  Desperate to escape torture and then death, Nita desperately tries to escape from her prison, but she is not their first prisoner and it will take some serious skill to escape.  Will Nita be able to pull off the impossible escape?

Not even bones is one of those books that is aimed at teenagers, but was thoroughly enjoyable for adult readers as well.  Right from the start it was easy to connect with Nita and get a sense of her world view which made the story very readable right from the start, and made her much more human.  The book is descried in reviews as "Dexter meets the Savage song" and in some ways this does the book a disservice because it is a fresh and original idea that defies being pigeon holed into one category or another.  This is an exciting new world set in our own, and like the best stories it makes you think that there really could be these supernatural beings walking around because they are so well formed and just seem so real.  Rebecca Schaeffer has obviously thought about the mythology behind the creatures, and has created creatures with strengths and weaknesses.

This is the first book in a trilogy and excitement that the next title in the series is called Only ashes remain and has a cover was quickly dampened by the knowledge that we have to wait until at least the end of the 2019 for the next book.  If you enjoy reading supernatural series with strong characters and a strong mythology anchoring everything together then this is plenty to like about this series.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The First Lady by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois

When you're campaigning to become the President of the United States of America for a second term the last thing you need is a scandal, but that's exactly what President Tucker is facing.  Caught red handed cheating on his wife, the only hope he has is that the First Lady will stand by his side and gracefully forgive him so the campaign can continue., as so many First Ladies have done in the past.  Banking on her cooperation, the President is shocked when Grace Tucker doesn't play ball - but there are other players involved with this game, and not all of them play by the same rules when a presidential campaign is involved.

When it becomes clear that the First Lady has gone missing it is up to Secret Service Agent Sally Grissom is responsible for the safety of the President and First Lady, but her team is not trained or equipped to deal with a missing persons case - especially not when hobbled with so many restrictions.  As she tries to find the First Lady it becomes clear that there is more to the story than she thought, and that if things go wrong her whole team will be thrown into the cogs of the ruthless machine that is politics.  

Washington D.C. is full of secrets, and some of those secrets can be deadly, especially when there are people who will stop at nothing to get what they want.  Agent Grissom has just one shot at saving not only the First Lady, but also her career and life.  As the faint trail of breadcrumbs becomes clearer, and as she gets closer to the truth, the danger level grows and the consequences of a mistake could be fatal.  

The First Lady is another brilliant collaboration between James Patterson and Brendan DuBois who have written some of my favourite Bookshots.  This is a political thriller that has multiple layers of secrets and players, people who are more than happy to fight dirty to get what they want no matter what the cost, and people who are desperate enough to throw everything they have at a fight to make sure they don't lose.  This was a well written thrill ride that was thoroughly enjoyed in one sitting, and fingers crossed that Patterson and DuBois collaborate on another full length novel soon!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Burning ridge by Margaret Mizushima

Burning ridge is the fourth book in the Timber Creek K-9 mysteries, and while you can read it as a stand alone this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not already read Killing trail, Stalking ground and Hunting hour.  I highly recommend reading the series in order.

Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo are a well oiled team, providing support for their fellow officers.  With each passing day their partnership deepens, and Mattie is constantly working with Robo to broaden his skills and experience.  When the local vet Cole Walker and his family find the partial remains of a person while they're in the mountains Mattie and Robo are part of the team called in to help find the rest of the body she has no idea that the case is about to get deeply personal - because Mattie knows the victim.

Working in a small town is always a challenge for the police because it's hard not to get involved in the lives of your community, and when a ghastly crime occurs it's difficult not to look at everyone with suspicion.  As the team works to untangle the mystery of the recently diseased, they make the startling discovery that the body has company - the remains of several people who were also likely murdered many years before.  As Mattie fights to stay involved with the case she also struggles to cope with the memories of her past that keep surfacing, making her feel unbalanced and adding to her stress levels.  As the suspects are slowly cleared Mattie has no idea that the killer is closer than she knows - and that they have plans for Mattie.

The Timber Creek K-9 mysteries have been a delightful find, not only because they are well written mysteries with twists and turns that keep the story interesting and challenging to solve, but also because of how well rendered the human and animal characters are.  With each book in the series we see new layers for each of the characters, and with each book Margaret Mizushima grows in her confidence with giving those characters more layers and depth.  With this fourth book in the series it feels like Mizushima has reached her full stride, her characters and stories meeting on an equal playing field and I can't wait to see what is next for Mattie as her personal story is starting to reveal hidden depths that will add to her character and the other characters around her.  This is a great series, and one of the few that my mother and I both read avidly.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The bartered brides by Mercedes Lackey

The bartered brides is the thirteenth book in the Elemental masters series and while it can be read as a stand alone novel it is best enjoyed when you read the series in order - or if you at least read A study in sable and A scandal in Battersea first.

Life is never boring for friends Nan Killian and Sarah Lyon-White as their connections to the world of elemental magicians means there is always some sort of adventure around the corner that needs their skills.  Having Suki join their little family has lead to some semblance of a comfortable and settled life, but that is shattered with the news that their friend and associate, the great Sherlock Holmes himself, is dead.  The only consolation is that he took Professor Moriarty down with him, but that still leaves some of Moriarty's associates loose in the world intent on revenge against the friends of Sherlock Holmes.

When someone makes a bold move again their small family Nan and Sarah make the difficult decision to send Suki off to the safety of the School - a smart move as they soon find themselves tangled up in a very strange case.  The body of a young woman has washed up wearing a white dress and missing her head, and she is soon followed by another.  As Sarah, Nan and the Watson's dig deeper into the case they realise that a very dark and dangerous power is growing on the streets of London - a Necromancer who has power of the dead.  It will be a race against time to stop the Necromancer before they can complete their task, because they are planning the unthinkable and don't care how many lives they spend to do it.

This is an interesting addition to the Elemental Masters universe as unlike most of the other books in the series there is no clear traditional tale that provides a framework for the story - other than the inclusion yet again of Sherlock Holmes and John and Mary Watson.  Despite that departure from what has become a tradition for the series this was a very welcome addition, not in the least because it provides more information about some of the characters and lays the foundations for future storylines.  Lots of fun to read and I can't wait to see where the series goes next.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla