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

                                      Tuesday, July 26, 2016

                                      Mirrored by Alex Flinn

                                      Violet was a strange child - on the inside and the outside - so she was an outsider to the other children at Coral Ridge Elementary which left her lonely and isolated.  The other children ignored her - except for Jennifer and Greg.  Jennifer and her friend Gennifer seemed to delight in teasing and excluding her, while Greg became a friend.  When the opportunity comes for Violet to make a change in her life she seizes it - after all who wouldn't want to smooth away the imperfections and make themselves practically perfect?  As the years go by Violet transforms herself into someone new and beautiful, supported by her new friend Kendra.  As the flaws fall away Violet expects things to change, but will they really?

                                      Celine bears a different curse - she is a natural beauty with a kind soul and loving heart.  No one takes her seriously though, or if they do they wait for her to be a Queen Bee or a snob.  When her mother dies in a tragic accident it is just Celine and her father, until an old friend reappears and joins their lives.  As time passes Celine grows more beautful and more isolated, until she is forced into the spotlight.  As her home life becomes more miserable Celine trhows herself into her friendships and new passions - but will it be enough?  Celine is in danger, and she doesn't even know it.

                                      Alex Flinn has written some amazing fractured fairytales over the years, taking stories we know really well and twisting them into something new and exciting - updating them and bringing them into a modern time and a modern world.  The common thread through these stories is Kendra, a "young" woman who has seen the ages pass and is not afraid to meddle in the lives of people who need it!  Mirrored was a relativley long story for Flinn, but it was also more complex than her other stories and was essentially three stories rolled into one rather enjoyable package.

                                      Fractured fairytales can work really well when they are well handled, but they can also be very bad when the author handles it badly.  Flinn has a deft touch with her fractured fairytales, drawing on the source material to give you a familiar feeling when you read, but also bringing in enough new material to keep things interesting.  Mirrored is a great addition to the story of Kendra and the people she helps/punishes.

                                      If you like this book then try:
                                      • Beastly by Alex Flinn
                                      • Cloaked by Alex Flinn
                                      • Princess of the midnight ball by Jessica Day George
                                      • Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell
                                      • Snow by Tracy Lynn
                                      • Beauty sleep by Cameron Dokey
                                      • The crimson thread by Suzanne Weyn
                                      • Ella enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
                                      • Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

                                      Reviewed by Brilla

                                      Saturday, July 23, 2016

                                      Black and Blue by James Patterson and Candice Fox

                                      Detective Harriet Blue is the only female cop in the sex crimes team and she is determined to prove herself - and she is not afraid to go outside the law to teach some criminals a lesson.  When the body of a young woman is found washed up in the same area as an active serial killer she jumps at the chance to work on the case, hoping it will lead to her joining the serial killer case - even if that means working with the most detested detective in Sydney.  As Detective Blue works her way through the case with the extremely unorthodox and loathed Detective Barnes at her side, she realises that they have stumbled across something bigger and badder than they thought.  They have to solve the case before more people die - and before Blue is forever tainted by working with Tox Barnes.

                                      Black and Blue is part of the Bookshots series and the first introduction to Detective Harriet Barnes who features in the upcoming novel Never Never.  As someone who lives "Down under" it is nice to read a book set so much closer to home, although admittedly Australia is still across the Ditch (not sure if we can convince James Patterson to write a book based in New Zealand so this might be as close as we can get!).  Being set in Australia adds a different flavour to the story which makes a nice change from having to puzzle out some of the little subtleties that Americans and the British pick up when reading books set in their own backyards.

                                      Detective Harriet Blue is an interesting character, full of all the flaws that make people people - and it was somewhat amazing that Patterson and Fox managed to squeeze in so much about her in such a short novel.  The dynamic between Blue and Barnes was interesting, as was the petty and nasty things that the other cops did to both of them - it made for some surprising reading that cops would do that to each other.  It took me a little longer to settle into Black and Blue but it was a great read and finished all too quickly, so hopefully we don't have to wait too long for Never Never to come out!  Another great addition to Bookshots.

                                      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
                                      • Heist by James Patterson and Rees Jones

                                      Reviewed by Brilla

                                      Friday, July 22, 2016

                                      Heist by James Patterson and Rees Jones

                                      Baz, Alex, and Charlotte had a plan to get the diamonds and get the money they need, but on the day their plan goes sideways when another gang tries to steal their diamonds.  A brief bloody fight later and they are on the run with the bad guys hot on their trail.  They stole the wrong the diamonds from the wrong person and he wants them back, and he is not afraid to fight dirty.  Weeks away from retirement Detective Inspector Andrew Hill decides to liven up his last days by taking on the case, and begins an international chase for the fugitives - but he is not the only one hunting for them.

                                      Heist is part of the Bookshots series and because it is such a compact story it is really challenging to review it without any spoilers!  James Patterson has a knack for writing action packed stories that are driven by action and characters, and when he finds the wright co-author it is like magic.  Of all the partnerships he has had I have always liked his collaborations with Michael Ledwidge best as they have a really seamless style and great writing chemistry - and I feel the same way about the writing chemistry between Patterson and Rees Jones.  They are yet to write a full length novel together, but the Bookshots with Patterson and Jones working together are my favourite so far!

                                      Bookshots have a wide variety of books in the series - some tie in with other full novel series, while others are stand alone novellas.  Heist is a stand alone novella which means you can dive in with no background and enjoy with no strings attached!  Here's hoping there are many more Patterson and Jones collaborations to come as they have a great writing chemistry with strong characters and fast paced action filled scenes.

                                      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

                                      Reviewed by Brilla

                                      A fierce and subtle poison by Samantha Mabry

                                      Lucas Knight spends his summers in Puerto Rico with his hotelier father, living a charmed life thanks to his money and his good looks.  Over the years he has formed friendships with the local boys, and more recently with the local girls.  He knows he is entitled and spoilt, but it is also the only life he knows.  He has been accepted by the locals to a certain degree, but he will always be an outsider to them.   

                                      Like the local boys Lucas has grown up hearing the stories about the house at the end of Calle Sol - the stories about the scientist who neglected his wife and kept her trapped in the house, with a myriad of options to how the story ended.  Lucas had his own stories growing up, but like the local boys he has thrown his wishes over the wall for the witch inside.  

                                      Lucas is about to make a startling discovery though - there really is someone living inside the walls of the house at the end of Calle Sol and she has been keeping secrets.  Lucas would never have made the discovery if not for the missing girls, and as more girls go missing Lucas finds himself at the centre of a mystery that could destroy his life.  Everyone in town knows about the witch who lives in the house, but Lucas is the first to see her - and if he is not careful she will destroy him.

                                      A fierce and subtle poison is one of those books that defies you to write a good review - because some of the best parts of the book come about because you discover them as a twist or plot point, not the sort of things you want to put in a review!  I have recently been reading a lot of books that I would have to label as odd or unusual, unique reads that almost defy you to categorise them and A fierce and subtle poison is one of those books.  The island of Puerto Rico is the perfect location for this story, it breathes life into the mythology of the story and the simple and idealistic lives of the local community provide a balance to the excess and luxury of Lucas's life.  

                                      I have the strong feeling this will be a polarising book - there are people who are going to love it and people who are going to hate it.  I wasn't sure if I liked it at first, but by the time I was about a third of the way through and still reading I figured that I was going to finish it after all - which I did in a final sprint over the last 100 pages or so.  

                                      One of the aspects that will annoy some is that Lucas and his friends are almost caricatures of themselves, as though the author has been heavy handed in defining the contrasts between the "white" entitled folk and the locals - but that helps add character to the story and the world they live in.  The spattering of Spanish throughout the book also adds to the charm and realism of the story.  All I can say is give the story a real try, at least the first two sections anyway as that is where the story really takes off.

                                      If you like this book then try:

                                      Reviewed by Brilla

                                      Tuesday, July 19, 2016

                                      Sisters of salt and iron by Kady Cross

                                      Sisters of salt and iron is the sequel to Sisters of blood and spirit and this is one series where you really need to read them in order - so before you read Sisters of salt and iron or any more of this review read Sisters of blood and spirit!

                                      Life has been a little surreal for Lark and Wren recently - no mean feat considering their very existence is surreal.  Lark has a group of friends and a boyfriend, something a social pariah like her shouldn't expect - talking to your dead sister and ending up in the loony bin tends to really damage a teenage girls reputation.  The most surreal part is that her circle of friends not only accepts Wren, but also embrace her as one of their friends too.  Not surprising considering everything they went through together because of Haven Crest and a particularly nasty ghost.

                                      With Halloween just around the corner things are getting interesting for Lark and Wren, not only are they experiencing weird little jolts, but they are also seeing more and more ghosts.  For Lark all the ghosts are a bit of a challenge, especially when they turn up at school and realise she can see and hear them.  For Wren it is discovering Noah, a ghost from Haven Crest that fills a need she never knew she had - a boyfriend and circle of friends of her own.  As dark forces once again threaten Lark, Wren, and their friends they need to untangle the mystery before innocent parties are hurt or even worse, killed.  As they search for answers they discover secrets about their own family - secrets that could destroy them or set them free.

                                      I love the world of Lark and Wren, not only because Cross has such an unusual ghost mythology, but also because she balances the characters and storyline so well.  Too much attention on the characters would slow this series down and bog it down in detail, too much attention on the action and mythology would make it difficult to connect with the characters - here we have a fantastic blend of characters and story that takes turns leading the dance so you are never bored or distracted.  This series won't appeal to everyone, but it is a great read and I hope that we don't have to wait too long for the next book in the series!

                                      If you like this book then try:

                                      Reviewed by Brilla

                                      Saturday, June 25, 2016

                                      Another little piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

                                      Annaliese Rose Gordon vanished in dramatic circumstances and now she has returned in circumstances that seem just as dramatic.  She has no memory of who she is or how she got to Oklahoma where she was found - and she has no memory of how she got the injury that left her with a scar on her forehead and a permanent bran injury.  The doctor said she was brain damaged, a monster, and as time passes the person inside Annaliese realises that the doctor has no idea.  On the outside she might be Annaliese, but on the inside she is someone else entirely, someone with incomplete memories and no idea how she came to be inside Annaliese's body - living her life.

                                      When she is sent home to live Annaliese's life memories start to leach back into her life, memories that imply she has lived for a long time, memories that make no sense.  One thing is clear, the mother is scared that she will vanish again.  As she tries to settle into her new skin and her new life Anna, the person inside Annaliese, has to figure out which of the memories might be true and which might be plain nightmares (because surely they can't all be true).  As time passes and Anna learns more about who and what she is, she also comes to understand what it means to truly make connections with people, and what it can mean to loose someone you love.  When the time comes to make the ultimate choice who will she protect - the world, or herself?

                                      Down with the shine was the first book I had read by Kate Karyus Quinn and it was such an unusual but well written story that I ordered the first two books she had written to see if they were as quirky and addictive.  Another little piece was an interesting and engaging read, from the start you couldn't help but feel Annaliese's confusion about what has happened, and why it has happened.  The characters are interesting and come with their own little flaws and quirks that make them more interesting and human - although the occasional cliche appears to make sure you know it really is high school.  I took longer to read Another little piece than I had hoped, and I think my picking it up and putting it down lead to the occasional moment of huh? (having to go back a few pages to make sense of something I was reading).  

                                      Quinn doesn't fit neatly into any of the traditional genre, she takes pieces from horror, fantasy, romance, supernatural, and thriller and blends them into a unique genre that just doesn't have a name yet.  There are a few authors exploring this new genre at the moment so no doubt a name will be found for it soon.  For a debut novel Another little piece was well polished and had surprising depth.  An author and book that deserve to be discovered.

                                      If you like this book then try:

                                      Reviewed by Brilla