Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Rebel by S.M. Wilson

Rebel is the sequel to The extinction trials and Exile, and while you can read it as a stand alone book you will enjoy it more reading the series in order.  This review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read The extinction trials and Exile.

Life in Earthasia is becoming increasingly unbearable, food and other resources are becoming increasingly scarce and the population is growing more and more restless.  All the benefits gained from competing in the extinction trials mean nothing for Lincoln and the other survivors, they are all struggling to survive.  Lincoln's sister Arta has become increasingly well thanks to the medicine he brought back from Piloria, as have many others, but all those extra mouths to feed are placing increasing strain on an already stressed and depleted continent.  With unrest growing, Lincoln receives the rather cryptic message to prepare himself and those he loves to leave - and when the people turn on the government Lincoln discovers that a plan is in place to escape to Piloria.

Surviving the journey is just the start, Lincoln and his friends know about the dangers of the continent, but the rest of the new settlers are unfamiliar with the challenges they are about to face and make dangerous mistakes from the start.  Lincoln knows that he has to keep a cool head to keep himself and his family alive, but his heart is also desperate to discover if Storm and her father have been able to survive on their own.  When he discovered they are still alive it is only the start of their problems because Silas has come to Piloria with the rest of the settlers, and he wants to bring everything about Earthasia with them - including the dangerous and misguided idea of wiping out the dinosaurs.  Storm and her friends need to survive, but they also need to try and protect their new home and their fellow settlers.  With secrets and hatred in his wake Silas could end up destroying them all.

The extinction trials has been an interesting and thoroughly absorbing series that left me with itchy fingers waiting for each new book in the series to see what happens next in a world of danger and intrigue.  The characters have been built up over the series and become like old friends, and you can't help but get involved with the story when you see it through the eyes of the different characters and get sucked in by their emotions.  The fast pace and action make this an enjoyable series, and the complex and complicated relationships make it feel very real - as do the dinosaurs and other creatures that inhabit the world.  There is a lot to love here, and very little to dislike (beyond the odd character or two).

From reading the acknowledgments it looks as though this is the last book in the series which in some ways is disappointing as I have become rather attached to the characters and their world - but maybe there will be more books set in the same 'world' in the future.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, July 19, 2019

The starter wife by Nina Laurin

On the outside Claire Westcott and her husband Byron Westcott have the perfect life.  He is a professor of Literature at a local college, and she is working on her novel.  They have the perfect life, the only shadow is the death of Byron's first wife Colleen, an artist who drowned herself.  Byron was a suspect in her disappearance, and with no trace of her body ever found a cloud of suspicion will always hang over his head.  Claire does everything she can to support him, keeping their home neat and orderly, and trying to ignore the fact that Byron still has Colleen's all over the house that was once Colleen's but is now theirs.  

Claire desperately wants a child to complete their lives, but recently something has shifted in their relationship.  Their mornings were once a shared breakfast before going their separate ways, but now she wakes to an empty bed and an empty house.  Desperate to please Byron, Claire goes out of her way to find out what is happening, but she should be more concerned about her own life.  The pressure is building and Claire is making stupid mistakes and taking risks, and Byron is noticing.  She can't seem to win with anything, and even the simplest things are getting harder and harder, and her little sneaky drinks seem to be hitting her harder and harder.  Claire is starting to feel really afraid, and when you are pushed to your limits you are capable of just about anything.

The starter wife was a one of those rare books that I didn't want to put down, it had to be read in a single day and lead to a rather late night to finish it!  Claire is an intriguing character and offers a window into the life that she shares with Byron, and the story is very well written with plenty of little snippets that help you build a better picture of the story.  It's easy to connect with Claire, especially as her world starts to crumble and you get the sense that someone is seriously messing with her life.  Byron seems to be the perfect husband, and they appear to be the perfect couple, but not everything is as it seems.  Talking about the story too much will ruin the little snippets and twists and turns that make this story so good - so the review will end here so you can read it for yourself.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Eye spy by Mercedes Lackey

Eye spy is the second book in the Family spies series by Mercedes Lackey so there will be some ***SPOILERS*** in this review if you have not already read The hills have spies.  While you can read this series out of order, I recommend that you read the series in order for most enjoyment.

Growing up with two Heralds as parents puts more than a little pressure on you to be Chosen yourself, and when your parents are The King's Own Herald and the Herald Spy of Valdemar the pressure settles a little more heavily.  Abidela, affectionately known as Abi, desperately wants to find her place in the world - especially now her older brother Perry has firmly found his place working with their father as a spy.  While Abi and her siblings already provide services to the Crown by being unofficial bodyguards for the Royal children, it's not quite enough.

Everything changes rather abruptly when Abi and Princess Kat are running an errand for the heavily pregnant Queen.  Abi, who has never shown any sign of a Gift, suddenly springs into action when she Feels that something is very wrong with the bridge they are crossing.  Springing into action she works with Kat to clear the bridge, just before it collapses in spectacular fashion.  It seems like a miraculous save, but Abi knows that something was wrong with the bridge before it collapsed and she soon discovers that she has a gift for Feeling when something is wrong with a building - a very valuable Gift for the Kingdom if it can be harnessed and shaped.

With the discovery of her Gift Abi is offered a place with the Artificers, a move that creates some resentment with the mostly male students who feel she has stolen her place and robbed another potential student of their opportunity.  After some unpleasantness, Abi finds that she loves being a student and realises that her developing skills could come in very handy for the family spy trade.  Her Gift is only part of her future, she must also develop real world skills, and with the help of a firm circle of friends she has a bright future - even though someone seems determined to stop her suceeding.  When it comes time for her to test her skills in the real world, Abi will have to call on all of her resources and everything she has ever learned to stop a looming disaster.

Some fans have been less than impressed with the Family spies series, mainly becuse of how the stories are developing and how some of the characters are writen.  Personally, I have enjoyed reading both The hills have spies and Eye spy.  The stories are something of a departure from the traditional Valdemar stories, mainly becuase they are focused more on the mundane than the use of Gifts and developing the story of one individual - it feels more like Mercedes Lackey is developing the storyline for characters that will play a part in a later series, creating a bridge between the world we know and the world that will be (just a hunch, nothing solid to go on).

This is an enjoyable series, with plenty of action and drama, as well as a tricky mystery or two for Abi to solve.  The ending does seem to be a little abrupt, but the journey was enjoyable and leaves room for Trey to tell his story and possibly what comes next for Abi in the same way that we saw some of Perry's future in Eye spy.  A good solid addition to the series, and now we just have to wait for Tory's story.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The deepest blue by Sarah Beth Durst

Mayara lives in a world where spirits are more than an idea or a myth, the spirits of her world can cause disruption and death when they turn their attention to people and their settlements.  On the islands of Belene there are constant reminders of the spirits, as many of their islands have formed from the massive remains of the spirits.  Some of the spirits have been tamed and bent to the will of the Queen, but there are still wild spirits that cause problems.  Anyone who shows the ability to control the spirits is given a choice - they can leave their friends and family behind forever and join the Silent Ones, or they can travel to Akena Island and take on the challenge of becoming one of the Heirs.  

But there are other people who can control the spirits, people like Mayara who constantly live in fear that they will be discovered and forced to make the choice between becoming a Silent One or facing Akena Island.  It has been drilled into Mayara for years to keep her skills secret, to not show anyone what she can do, otherwise she will be taken just like her older sister Elorna - something that would break her parents hearts and push her mother further into madness.  When a terrible spirit storm descends on the island on her wedding day Mayara has no choice but to defend her people, which starts a domino effect as she is forced to make the choice of becoming a Silent One or facing Akena Island - an island that is steeped in danger and holds the key to unlocking the chance to change her world forever - if only she can survive the island.

The deepest blue is a stand alone novel set in the world of Renthia, and I was a little dubious about reading it as I haven't read the other books but I had no problems getting into the story and was very quickly absorbed into the story.  Mayara offers an amazing view of this world, her story takes you quickly into the heart of the challenge and her emotions and experiences make it impossible to resist being dragged along for the ride.  The deepest blue is not high fantasy in the classic sense, but the feeling of being on a quest and having the weight of the world on your shoulders has echoes of the high fantasy of old without all the stodgy stuff and flowery language that came along with high fantasy.  

This is an enjoyable fantasy with complex human characters that make it well rounded and thoroughly believable (not to mention makes me want to read other books set in the world of Renthia).  The best part is that it is also a great read for teenagers wanting to move from reading teenage targeted fantasy to adult fantasy as there are no real moments or situations that would be challenging to read or understand.  Looking forward to reading more books set in Renthia when I have the time.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The better sister by Alafair Burke

Chloe Taylor is smart, has an amazing career in the publishing industry, and has the perfect life with her husband and step son.  That's the positive story, the image she shows to the world, but it's not that simple.  Chloe's husband was married to another Taylor sister once, Chloe's older sister Nicky, and the son she is raising as her own is her nephew Ethan.  Nicky was never cut out to be a mother, she was wild and reckless and loved to have fun - including having a substance abuse problem that resurfaced once little Ethan was born.  Knowing what Nicky was like meant she had no problems stepping in to support her brother-in-law Adam gain custody of Ethan and keep him safe.

Now fifteen years later Ethan sees Chloe as his mother, and despite a few moments of acting out her seems to be doing fine.  On the outside her perfect family is just that, but being a successful woman who earns more than her husband has it's drawbacks and Adam is being less and less supportive of her career.  To make matters worse Chloe is regularly targeted by social media trolls who want to take her down a peg or two.  Chloe mostly ignores the trolls and uses their comments to make her message stronger, but some of the trolls seem to know a great deal about her.

When Chloe returns home from a party one night she discovers Adam dead - a shocking moment that is just the start of the nightmare.  She and Ethan are automatically suspects, and the Police soon focus on Ethan and arrest him for the crime.  As the Police build their case secrets start to be uncovered and the perfect life they have apparently enjoyed begins to unravel.  When Nicky is informed about Adam's death she comes to New York to support her son, and as she is his legal guardian there is nothing Chloe can do to stop her sister crashing back into her life.  As the case heads towards trial and Chloe and Nicky spend more time together they learn more about each other and themselves, and the man they both loved.  Will they be able to prove Ethan is innocent - or is he?

The better sister was one of the best crime novels I have read recently.  Alafair Burke crated characters that were multifaceted and all too real, and as each moment passed and new secrets were revealed it added to the depth of the characters and the story.  This was a story that was revealed in layers, starting with a perfect life and ending with the 'truth'.  The relationship between the Taylor sisters was intriguing and the more you learn the more sympathy you have for both of them.  In some ways the novel is very topical, with the idea of men in power taking advantage of women, and women who don't speak out because of the consequences.  

This was a thrilling read, and yet another example of how well Burke understands human nature and psychology.  Highly recommended read, and if you like this then you should check out her other novels and the novels she has cowritten with Mary Higgins Clark.

If you like this book then try:
  • City of fear by Alafair Burke
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • The survivors club by Lisa Gardner
  • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarratano
  • Dead secret by Ava McCarthy
  • Behind closed doors by B.A. Paris
  • City of the lost by Kelley Armstrong
  • Breaking Creed by Alex Kava
  • The First Lady by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois
  • Spare me the truth by C.J. Carver

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, April 28, 2019

In another life by C.C. Hunter

Chloe Holden thought she had a great life - until her father decided to move on with a younger woman, and her mothers life was destroyed a second time with a cancer diagnosis.  It's hard not to feel angry and bitter towards her father, especially when her mother is still feeling hurt and betrayed and spits bile and pain whenever she talks about her father.  It is a challenging time, especially when her father's partner seems determined to stamp her mark on the relationship and push Chloe out of his life.  Her own pain and anger are constantly bubbling under the surface, especially when she compares her new life to her old.

When she storms off mid argument with her father one day she has no idea that fate is about to intervene in her life in a big way.  Cash Colton is a foster child biding his time until he turns 18 and ages out of the foster system.  His current foster family, the Fullers, are amazing and treat him like he is their own son, but something inside tells him it's not real and that he can't keep taking from them.  He watches everyday as Mrs Fuller tries to come with the loss of the daughter who was kidnapped from them and never found - and he has to watch as people prey on the Fuller's hopes and dreams.  He doesn't feel like he truly belongs, but he feels protective of the Fuller's and wants to protect them from the scammers and tricksters who see them as a pay day - he should know after all, the son of a con man knows all the tricks of the trade. 

When Cash and Chloe meet Cash is blown away by her resemblance to the age progression photo of his foster parents little girl Emily, and he is instantly suspicious.  As he learns more about Chloe he grows suspicious of her, but she also seems so innocent and ignorant about the Fuller's and their plight.  As Cash swings between thinking that Chloe could be Emily and thinking it is just all a con, he also finds himself growing closer to Chloe.  When Chloe learns what Cash suspects it is a shock, and knowing she was adopted as a young child opens the doors to all sorts of painful thoughts and fears.  Chloe and Cash are both determined to solve the mystery, but it may come at a terrible cost.

In another life is a well told and emotional read that may cover an idea that has been covered before in books like The face on the milk carton, but takes the story deeper and makes a more emotional and intense story.  Chloe is going through a time of intense personal stress and turmoil, and her mother has a great deal of anger and hostility towards her father which means Chloe has to tackle this discovery on her own.  Cash is just as complicated, a young man who has been raised on cons and deceit which makes him cynical and inclined to see the worst of people.  This background makes the story very intense, emotional, and something of a rollercoaster - and as the story plays out other elements come into play that make it even more of a thriller (no spoilers from me).

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The deceivers by Kristen Simmons

Life in Devon Park is hard, especially when your mother's partner is a paranoid drug dealer who thinks you owe him.  Brynn has been walking the knife's edge for years, quietly working small (and not so small) cons to save money for college so that she can leave Devon Park behind for good.  Everything seems to be going well, even if some boy seems to be popping up wherever she is, until Pete discovers her stash of college money and assumes that she either a) stole pills from his supply and sold them or b) stole the money directly from him.  

Her only hope to raise the money she needs in the short time she has is to sell pills for Pete, a dangerous prospect when there is a very territorial gang in the neighbourhood who doesn't take kindly to people who try and sell on their turf.  It seems like all her hard work has been for nothing, until she accepts a wild proposition that sees her accepted as a student at the mysterious Vale Hall.  Vale Hall has only a handful of students and a very special curriculum and field trips - including learning how to run cons on people in real world situations.

For the first time Brynn has something to focus on other than Pete and his drugs, or earning enough money to get out of Devon Park.   Vale Hall is a great opportunity, a chance for a great education and a college fund, but it also means follow the rules and doing what Dr. Odin wants her to do.  Letting go of the past is tricky though, especially when the little contact she does have proves that her mother is not safe.  The more time Brynn spends at Vale Hall the more she learns about her fellow classmates, and the more she learns that no one is what they seem - including her.

The deceivers was a brilliant and addictive read that hooked me from the start with a complex and interesting main character walking a tough line between being a good girl and getting out of town, and being a bad girl who can actually afford to get out of town.  Her somewhat wonky moral compass makes her more interesting, and her complex relationships make her more relatable and realistic.   Her family life is complicated, and when her 'lucky break' appears it is not a clean break - nor is her new 'family' as golden as it might seem at first.

The deceivers was one of my favourite books this year, and it has had some rather stiff competition.  This is a cleverly crafted book that has twists and turns, both subtle and extreme, and Kristen Simmons did an amazing job of keeping it interesting without being too clever.  A great take on the myths of Odin, and hopefully at some point we get to see Brynn and her world again.

If you like this book then try:

  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • Little white lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • Burning blue by Paul Griffin
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Such a pretty girl by Laura Wiess
  • Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott
  • Court of fives by Kate Elliott
  • NEED by Joelle Charbonneau
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick
  • Grave mercy by Robin LaFevers
  • The girl of fire and thorns by Rae Carson
  • The mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
  • Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher
  • I swear by Lane Davis

Reviewed by Brilla

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