Sunday, April 23, 2017

The shut-in by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski

Tricia Celano has a medical condition that basically means she is allergic to sunlight - so her daylight hours are spent holed up in her studio apartment.  Because of a fear of wandering at night she also doesn't go out at night, so she has become a shut-in over the past few years.  Everything she needs she can order online, and to get her fix of people time she uses her small drone to explore the world beyond her apartment. 

When she catches sight of a murder through the lens of her drone, Amelia, it is just the beginning of a dangerous game of cat and mouse.  Tricia is used to observing the world from a distance, but this time someone is looking back at Amelia and understands what the little drone means.  As the game of cat and mouse escalates, Tricia has to figure out how to stop the killer from adding her to their list - especially when the Police don't believe pretty much anything she has to say.

Bookshots have a wide variety of books in the series - some tie in with other full novel series, while others are stand alone novellas.  The shut-in is a stand alone novella which means you can dive in with no background and enjoy with no strings attached!  

I have read quite a few Bookshots, and this is the second one I have read by these two authors and they have a real zing when writing together.  Patterson is always a sharp writer, but pairing with Swierczynski adds a darker and more twisted edge that makes them delicious little dark treats to enjoy!

If you like this book then try:
  • The house husband by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski
  • 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
  • Level 26: Dark origins by Anthony E. Zuiker & Duane Swierczynski

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, April 16, 2017

If you dare by A.R. Torre

If you dare is the sequel to The girl in 6E, and Do not disturb and while you can read and enjoy this book on it's own, you will understand more and enjoy more if you read the books in order.  I highly recommend reading The girl in 6E and Do not disturb first so there aren't any ***SPOILERS**** when you read the review for If you dare.

Deanna has settled into life with her boyfriend Jeremy, but it always feels like she is only one step away from losing control and taking another life.  He wants to draw her out into the world, become a normal person, but Deanna knows that deep down a killer is just waiting to come out.  When Jeremy starts pressuring her to come to a family dinner, Deanne pushes back, refusing to be drawn out of the safety of her apartment.  It places pressure on their relationship, as does her all consuming jealousy and rage when Chelsea from-down-the-hall starts flirting with Jeremy.

When Deanna wakes up with a broken nose and a bloody face she has no memory of how it happened - and that leaves her feeling unbalanced and wary.  What happened when she blacked out, did she kill someone?  When the Police come knocking on her door she tries not to freak out, but it soon becomes clear that something is very wrong.  Going into survival mode Deanna starts preparing for the worst, but she is till totally unprepared when she finds out that Jeremy has been stabbed and is in intensive care.  Did her worst fears come true, did Deanna just prove to be the danger she always thought she was?

This series continues to defy classification - part murder mystery, part sexually explicit romance, and part psychological thriller it messes with your mind and keeps you wondering what is coming next.  If you dare makes clever use of chapters, jumping around in time to keep the tension really high and keep you guessing about what is really happening.  This is the first time we really see Deanna at something of a loose end, as she has no idea about what happened to cause the broken nose and it leads to some interesting moments.  If you dare was a real treat, and I sincerely hope that there is more to Deanna's story as it has been a very enjoyable ride (even if I do have to describe the series as a guilty little pleasure!).

If you like this book then try:
Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, April 14, 2017

Silence fallen by Patricia Briggs

Silence fallen is the tenth book in the Mercy Thompson series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** of what happens in the previous books.  If you like to read series in order then don't read anymore of this review until you have read the other books in this series - a series that really benefits from being read in the right order.  I highly recommend reading Shifting shadows first too as the short stories will help you make sense of some of the characters.

The past few years have been a thrill ride for Mercy and her friends and family - it seems as though there is always a bigger (or badder) problem just around the corner, and some of the bad has been very bad indeed.  It seems as though life might finally be settling down for Mercy, Adam and the Pack, which of course means that disaster strikes when they least expect it!  When Mercy is in a car accident the last thing she expects is to wake up in a strange place on the other side of the world with her pack and mate bonds silent. 

Already trying not to panic, the last thing she needs is to discover that she has been rescued by a vampire with a fearsome reputation for getting anything and everything he wants.  With all her normal resources out of reach, Mercy has to look deep inside to find the courage and the strength to fight for herself - listening to the little voice of Charles in her head that tells her to take the chance to run for it while she still can.  Escaping from her temporary prison is only the first step though, because a coyote in the streets of Europe is very noticeable and makes a rather tempting target.

I love the Mercy Thompson series, not only because Mercy is amazing, but also because of the thoroughly believable world that Patricia Briggs has created.  Silence fallen was a nice change of pace for the series, which over time has grown to include a wider cast of characters and more complex storylines - which makes the series more appealing, but can also make the cast of characters seem like they are fighting for your attention.  With Silence fallen, Briggs appears to have taken a step to the side, choosing a story that is very much Mercy and Adam's story.  It feels like the series has taken a breather and returned to simpler times, and it was a thoroughly enjoyed treat!

There is a note at the start of the book from Briggs saying to pay attention to the comments at the start of chapters to help you keep track of the timeline, but I just didn't need them because the story unfolds so naturally and you get so caught up in the story that I stopped keeping track!  I was a little surprised that we got another Mercy story so quickly as I was expecting another book from the Alpha and Omega series, but I devoured the book in one sitting on Good Friday which made it a very good Friday indeed.  Now all we have to do is wait for the next book in the series (or in the world).

The recommended reading order is:

And to fill in the gaps there are some new (and old) short stories in:

If you like this book then try:
  • Tinker by Wen Spencer
  • Night shifted by Cassie Alexander
  • Kitty and the midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Dark descendant by Jenna Black
  • Burning water by Mercedes Lackey
  • Blood price by Tanya Huff
  • Urban shaman by C.E. Murphy
  • Spiders bite by Jennifer Estep
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, April 10, 2017

French twist by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

Detective Luc Moncrief may have left the bright lights and bustling metropolis of Paris for the streets of New York, but he is still a Frenchman at heart.  His partner, Detective Katherine Burke is strong willed, beautiful, and way too smart to fall for his charms - which makes her the perfect partner. 

When Moncrief and Burke are called to the mysterious death of a beautiful young woman in an upmarket clothing store they discover that she is not the first victim, there have been other woman who have also died under mysterious circumstances.  The only apparent connection between the women is that they are all young, beautiful, and wealthy.  The case is meant to be their top priority, but when old friends reach out to Moncrief he doesn't have the heart to turn them down.  His friends are receiving threats about Garcon, their race horse.

With his attention drawn to his old friends, will Moncrief be distracted and drop the ball on the case they are meant to be working on?  Moncrief may be a self assured (sometimes arrogant) French detective who likes to do things his own way, but he is starting to grow on his partner, and his work seems to make the streets of New York a little safer - and definitely more interesting!

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 twist is part of the Bookshots series that also includes French kiss and The Christmas mystery

If you like this book then try:
  • French kiss by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo
  • The Christmas mystery by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo
  • Private Royals by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • 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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Long may she reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Freya is not your typical noble, she doesn't like to wear fancy clothes and she would rather have her nose in a book or do science experiments rather than attend parties.  When she is forced to attend the King's birthday banquet, the one bright spark of the night is that she gets to spend time with her best friend Naomi.  With Naomi around she can almost ignore the looks and the whispers about "strange" Freya.  When she makes the impulsive decision to sneak away from the party to conduct an experiment she has no idea that her act of quiet rebellion will save her life - and make her Queen.  

It is not an easy throne to sit upon, it seems that everyone wants to control Freya, to make her follow the path that has always been followed - but Freya has a mind of her own and is determined to be Queen in fact, and not just in name.  With enemies and conspiracies seemingly around every corner, Freya must solve the mystery of who killed the King and his Court if she is to avoid Civil War and destruction.  Can her science help Freya solve the mystery before it is too late?

This is an interesting and thoroughly engaging book, mostly because it stubbornly refuses to be defined by a single genre.  Freya is almost an anti-hero, someone who would be just as surprised to find herself the "hero" of a book, as she is surprised to find herself Queen.  If I had to choose a single genre for Long may she reign I would push it into the mystery genre, because at the heart of the story is a young woman coming of age, but to save herself and her kingdom she has to solve the mystery of who killed the old King and why.  I was a little surprised by how fond I became of Freya and her Court, and in many ways I hope that there is another book about Freya and her kingdom because she has started on a journey as Queen, and making changes to her kingdom that deserves to be explore more.

This is one of those incredibly frustrating books to review because the more I reveal in the review the fewer surprises you have when you are reading the book (which spoils a lot of the enjoyment).  There are some great moments, some "ahhh" moments, and some moments when you see the Queen that Freya will be one day if she is given the chance.  Freya proves that you don't have to be beautiful to be a princess in a fairy tale, that sometimes brains can win the day.  A great read, that many adults will also enjoy.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Madeline Finn and the library dog by Lisa Papp

Madeline Finn does not like to read!  Not because she doesn't want to read, but because she finds reading tricky - sometimes the words get stuck and people giggle at her when she tries to get them out.  More than anything Madeline wants a gold reading star, but everytime she reads out loud all she gets is a keep trying sticker instead.  

When her mother takes her to the public library the librarian, Mrs. Dimple, has a wonderful surprise.  The library has a roomful of reading dogs, including a big white fluffy dog called Bonnie.  Bonnie sits quietly and listens as Madeline slowly picks out the words and builds her confidence reading aloud, but just before her next big test Madeline visits the library and Bonnie isn't there!  Can Madeline read out loud in front of the class without practicing with Bonnie first?

This book was an absolutely delighful discovery, not only because it has such wonderful illustreations and characters, but also because it shows what reading dogs can do for children.  I visit my local primary school with our little therapy dog each Friday, and we work with a teacher and his class.  Today we took this book for the children to read and all three of the children who read to the dog chose to read the book.  

Our little reading dog at the school

I did stress to the children that this is fiction - because children and dogs are never left alone for health and safety reasons, and because a pregnant dog and her puppies would not be able to visit - but it does show what a difference reading dogs can make in quite a realistic fashion.  I will definitely be buying a copy of this book for our class, and buying at least one copy for me to keep - and I highly recommend this book for anyone involved with reading dog programmes because it is just perfect for children and adults alike.

If you like this book then try:
  • Diary of a wombat by Jackie French; illustrated by Bruce Whatley
  • Pete the sheep by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
  • If I had a raptor by George O'Connor
  • The ugliest dog in the world by Bruce Whatley
  • That magnetic dog by Bruce Whatley
  • This book just ate my dog! by Richard Byrne

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, March 10, 2017

Krakens and lies by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland

Krakens and lies is the final book in the Menagerie trilogy and this book review contains ***SPOILERS*** because the action picks up right where the second book in the series left off.  This is a series where it is highly recommended that you read the series in order!

It seems as though Logan and his new friends Zoe and Blue do nothing but move from disaster to disaster!  First they had the escaped griffin cubs that almost exposed to Menagerie to the outside world, and then someone snuck into the aviary and stole Pelly - framing one of the dragons in the process.  Just when it seems as though things might be settling down the deadly basilisk escapes putting everyone and everything in the Menageries in terrible danger.  It might have been a coincidence, a series of random mishaps and accidents, but it soon becomes clear that someone wants to expose the Menagerie - and they don't care who gets hurt in the process.

Logan is all too happy to help his new friends and the mystical animals in their care, but what he wants more than anything is to solve the mystery of his mothers disappearance.  She was supposed to arrive at the Menagerie with a Chinese dragons months ago, but both Abigail and the dragon are nowhere to be found.  With danger and mystery around every turn it is the worst time to discover that someone in the family has been keeping secrets - but that is exactly what Zoe and her family are about to find out.  It is also an interesting time to rediscover an old friendship and blow the lid off the biggest secret her family has ever had to keep!  With secrets and conspiracies around every turn, Logan and Zoe are going to have to uncover the truth, the whole truth, and all the truths if they are ever going to solve the mysteries surrounding the Menagerie.

This has been a really fun and challenging series to read - fun because the characters and the action comes off the page and drags you into the story, and challenging because the action picks up right where it left off in the previous book and it tests your memory about what has happened before!  This series would make a great movie, or the basis for a television series - not based on the books exactly, but more about taking the world they live in and creating a series based on that.  The Sutherland sisters have created a world that is logical, has engaging and endearing creatures, and brings aspects of mythology into the modern world in a fun and entertaining way.  They have also balanced the magic and fantasy with some truly touching personal relationships, and an underlying mystery that keeps you hooked from story to story.  It is in this final book that we also discover that there is not one but two mysteries to solve before the end of the book!

Writing a well rounded and engaging fantasy read for children and 'tweens is more challenging than people think, and the Sutherland sisters have done it very very well with the Menagerie series.  All of the characters have a unique voice and stories/lives that make sense, the characters that live around them are varied and complicated - just like real people.  The magical and mythical creatures all have their own back stories and their origin stories, but they are also clearly defined individuals with their own strengths, weaknesses, and flaws (especially the unicorns, did not see that coming).  If you have a young person in your life who likes well written stories where the children are the heroes and not everything is as it seems - then you have to encourage them to try this series!  (And while you're at it, you should read it too!  Just saying).

If you like this book then try:
  • The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland
  • Dragon on trial by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland
  • The world around the corner by Maurice Gee
  • Into the land of the unicorns by Bruce Coville
  • Pangur ban the white cat by Fay Sampson
  • Stone heart by Charlie Fletcher
  • Red rocks by Rachael King
  • The mysterious howling by Maryrose Wood
  • Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
  • Northwood by Brian Falkner
  • Finding the fox by Ali Sparkes
  • Hollow Earth by John Barrownman and Carole Barrowman

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, March 4, 2017

No true way: All-new tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey

For more than twenty years Mercedes Lackey has been leaving readers enthralled, spell bound, emotionally invested, and heart broken with her stories set in Valdemar and the other lands of Velgrath.  It is a world with a rich and long history, and readers have been introduced to hundreds of characters over the years - some fleetingly and in passing, while others we have gotten to know intimately in life and in death. 

It is a world where you might find yourself Chosen by a Companion, spending your life serving King, Queen and Country as a Herald.  Equally important are the Healers and Bards that use their own gifts to help the people of Valdemar and beyond - some of whom have met truly sad ends.  In No true way we cross paths with characters that we have already met through the novels written by Mercedes Lackey, and we are introduced to other characters through stories penned by authors that are growing the legends of Valdemar. 

It is unusual for an author to open their creation to other writers, and while there is the occasional sour note with some of the stories, there are also some truly remarkable and thoroughly enjoyable stories as well.  The best part about a short story anthology is that you can pick and choose what you read, so the book can last for days or hours - depending on how much you want to read!

Some of the highlights of this anthology are:

Vixen by Mercedes Lackey
Healers are usually known for their warmth and compassion, but Vixen is known for her sharp tongue - to the point that no one remembers that Vixen is a nickname and not her actual name!  She has carefully remained distant from the people around her, but that distance is challenged when danger threatens people she cares about.

Forget me never by Cedric Johnson
A young Bardic student is always overlooked and forgotten - so she abandons her education and steps out into the world on her own, and into an unforgettable adventure.

A brand from the burning by Rosemary Edghill and Rebecca Fox
One day Solaris will become the Son of the Sun, but when she was a child she saw how power and faith can be corrupted - and that sometimes you have to do the wrong thing to make things right.

Consequences unforeseen by Elizabeth A.Vaughan
A young widow travels to her late husbands lands, only to discover that her new people need her to do more than rule - they need her to save them.  She will need all her wits and skills to save them from ruin and starvation.

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

Former detective Ted Conkaffey fled from Sydney when the powers that be decided not to proceed to trial with the charges filed against him, and he has settled in the small Cairns town of Crimson Lake.  It seems crazy to move to a small town when you are hiding out, small towns have a tendency to know everyone else's business, but so far no one has connected the new resident to the disgraced detective who was charged with the kidnapping and brutal sexual and physical assault of a 13 year old girl.  The case may never had made it to court, but Ted's case has already been heard in the court of public opinion - and he was judged guilty, not to mention a disgusting piece of human garbage. 

In the quiet backwater town his own excitement so far has been the arrival of an injured goose and her offspring, who have proved to be a remarkable balm for his wounds.  For a man who has lost everything - family, career, reputation - it is amazing what a difference an over protective mother and her fuzzy little goslings can make.  When his lawyer asks him to look up a local woman and reach out to her it is the last thing Ted wants to do, but he is also intrigued about what he could possibly do for someone else when his own life is so messed up.  It turns out that Ted might have got it wrong - it was not so much what he could do for her, but what she might be able to do for him.

Amanda Pharrell is a convicted murdered who has served her time and re-joined her community, taking the extraordinary step of qualifying as a Private Investigator.  There first meeting is almost like a blind date, Ted is not sure what to expect but it is probably not a heavily tattooed woman who seems to have a few screws loose.  Which is fair considering Amanda probably wasn't expecting a bitter and depressed former detective who likes the bottle a little too much.  The trial case for a potential partnership is the disappearance of a local author, the local celebrity.  It is a challenging case because nothing is what it seems, and because their progress is grudgingly scraped away under the watchful and disruptive presence of two beat cops who have their sights set on Ted. 

Being on the wrong side of the law is never easy, but it's worse when you were once counted as one of the good guys.  It's a race against time to solve the disappearance before Ted is exposed to the local community as the resident paedophile - or killed outright.  Dealing with Amanda's idiosyncrasies and the police harassment is bad enough, but a tenacious reporter is also stalking Ted to try and get an exclusive interview, and she is proving to be very tenacious indeed.

Last year Candice Fox co-authored a Bookshot novella and a full length novel with James Patterson, books that I enjoyed so I picked her book Hades up and tried to get into it - but something just didn't sit right with me and I never got beyond the first few chapters.  When I picked up Crimson Lake it was with a certain amount of caution as I didn't want to be disappointed again - but I shouldn't have worried because I was hooked on the story from start to finish.  The character of Ted Conkaffey practically leaps off the page and into your psyche from the first page, and when Amanda joins the story it felt like the story had a much needed local voice and flavour that helps you settle into the small town of Crimson Lake quickly and easily.  It would have been easy for Fox to choose to have a completely "normal" person to balance out Ted and what is happening to him, but Amanda is a perfect fit because she is haunted by her own past and her own demons.

One of the quirky things about Crimson Lake is that there are no chapter numbers, so you have no idea how many chapters you have read - an interesting technique, as are the short and punchy chapters.  It feels like Fox has been influenced in a good way by her work with Patterson, the story is finely crafted with enough description and characters development to help you fully visually the world, and enough pace with the novel to keep you moving along with the action and the drama.  It feels very much like this is the first book in a series and I genuinely hope that (1) it is the start of a new series because we NEED to learn more about Ted and Amanda, and (2) that we don't have to wait too long for a sequel!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Do not disturb by A.R. Torre

Do not disturb is the sequel to The girl in 6E, and while you can read and enjoy this book on it's own, you will understand more and enjoy more if you read the books in order.  I highly recommend reading The girl in 6E first so there aren't any ***SPOILERS**** when you read the review for Do not disturb.

It has been a few months since Deanna let her inner monster out of the box, and while she seems to have settled back into her life a hunger bubbles under the surface, pushing her to push her limits.  Her relationship with Jeremy is both exhilarating and terrifying, a hint of normalcy that seriously tests her ability to maintain control.  With Jeremy by her side she can leave her apartment and re-enter the normal world, but there is always a doubt about her ability to control herself - a doubt that Jeremy seems oblivious to.  It seemed like she could never have a normal life, but with each day it seems as though she might just be able to do it - as long as she leaves the knives at home.

Having a boyfriend is a novel experience in more ways than one - not many boyfriends would be okay with their partner working as a sexcam operator.  Luckily it is not a huge deal, because working the sexcam is what has given Deanna the freedom to live her life.  Working as JessReilly19 has made her a lot of money, and with that money comes safety and security - not to mention the ability to live in an apartment with little or no actual human contact.  It is a safe way for her to make money, a chance to manipulate people without putting their lives at risk, or exposing her to the risk of hurting others. 

When one of her clients tries to push "Jess" into meeting in real life, his increasing pressure results in him being banned from her sexcam feeds, and then her private website.  It's normal practice for this to happen, but this time Deanna has started a dangerous game of cat and mouse because they man she banned has power, money, and after several years in prison a burning desire for female company.  Her former client has a burning desire to find "Jess" and punish her, but he has no idea what he is up against.

The girl in 6E was a genre bending series opener that defiantly refused to be pushed into a single category and had scenes that were pretty confronting - both in terms of being pretty explicit, but also because of the glimpses we get into Deanna's mind.  Do not disturb picks up a few months later and while the content is drifting towards more of a romance than a sexually explicit/erotica vibe it is still a pretty intense read.  Book one was a bold and brave move for author A.R. Torre, and she has built on that first novel to include a broader range of challenges and emotions for Deanne and her readers. 

Getting restless in her apartment opens up a whole new world (literally) for Deanna, and her growing relationship adds new challenges and opportunities.  One of the most intense things about this story is the parallel story with the recently released rapist who fixates on Deanna and is on a collision course with all her pent up desires and need to kill.  This series is something of a guilty pleasure for me because as soon as I say she is a sexcam worker most people can't take anything else I say seriously (or they look at me strangely), but this is a very good series, and the author obviously has a good understanding of human nature and the challenges we all face getting through each day.  Deanna is smart and fierce, and she knows how to get what she wants (even if that does scare the pants off the people around her!).

If you like this book then try:
Reviewed by Brilla