Sunday, November 4, 2018

Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong

Three years ago Skye Gilchrist got the devastating news that her older brother Luka was killed during a school shooting, and that he was one of the shooters and not one of the victims.  That simple fact shattered Skye's world and sent her family scrambling from the small town they lived in, hoping to escape the stigma and the pain.  They should have known better, no matter where they moved to people eventually figured it out - and once they did Skye usually bore the brunt of their disgust and anger.  Now Skye is about to face her worst nightmare - she has to return home because her mother and grandmother are no longer able to look after her.  

Moving in with her Aunt Mae has it's challenges, the least of which is that she never seems to be home because of her long work schedule.  Moving back to her home town means seeing people she hasn't seen in three years, people who look at her and see what her brother did.  The one silver lining is that her former bestfriend Jesse doesn't go to her new high school, he goes to another school which means she shouldn't have to face the fact her brother killed his brother and he hates her for it.  She plans to just fly under the radar, but that changes when she discovers that Jesse is at her new school - something that seems to be a shock for both of them.  To make matters worse little things keep happening that make Skye look like she is a liar, or worse, crazy.  If she can't get to the bottom of the mystery she may have no future.

Aftermath is one of those books that you connect with straight away because of the characters and how well they are written.  Straight away you feel what Skye went through, the bright bursts of happiness and the gut wrenching lose.  The flipside of the coin in Jesse, and it is just as easy to connect with him, even though at first you may not want to because of how strongly your view is painted by how Skye feels about him.  The strength of the characters is supported by a mystery that slowly unravels, keeping you hooked from the first line to the last.  At first you think that Skye might be crazy (and who would blame her for going crazy), but over time you come to realise there might actually be more to the story.

I loved Missing by Kelley Armstrong and was hoping that Aftermath would be equally good and I was not disappointed.  This is a solidly written thriller that may be aimed at teenagers but was equally good being read as an adult thriller - there is a lot to like and nothing to hate.  Hopefully Armstrong continues to write teen thrillers as she does them very very well.

If you like this book then try:
Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, October 22, 2018

Flesh and blood by Nigel McCrery

Flesh and blood is the fifth book in the DCI Lapslie series so there are ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the other books in the series.  You can read this book as a standalone but you may find it confusing without the background from the other books in the series.  I highly recommend reading this series in order.

There is nothing that shakes the confidence of a police officer more than having a defense lawyer make a fool of them on the stand and set their client free, and for DCI Mark Lapslie that is exactly what happens in the case of Alastair Tulley.  Instead of the case being about the rather gruesome evidence of a young boys severed arm found in Tulley's home, it becomes about Lapslie and his medical condition which lead to some unconventional police work.  Licking his wounds and angry about the process, and if he's honest himself, Lapslie throws himself back into his police work with little grace.  He doesn't have to wait long for another boy to go missing and when the evidence leads to a new suspect it seems as though Tulley is in the clear, but something doesn't feel right to Lapslie and his team.

Josie Dallyn may be young, but she is already a dedicated journalist and when she has the chance to uncover more information about a story she doesn't hesitate to follow up and in the process nearly ends up a victim of a serious crime.  Escaping was just the start, because some people may think she is paranoid, but she knows she has stumbled onto a big story, and the more she digs the more she discovers about the links between cases.  Josie is not the only person looking into the disappearances of young boys, and it soon becomes clear that the disappearances aren't random, and that they are not limited to a small area.  Can Josie, Lapslie, and the other researchers connect the dots before it's too late?

This was one of the more interesting and involved storylines for this series and in a way it was a shame that the timeline bounced around so much as I sometimes got distracted or hand to go back and check dates to see where I was in the timeline.  I get that it is a writers technique to move between time periods quickly, but I feel that it let the story down a little as it took away the smoothness and took some of the edge out of the story as it got a little convoluted.  The over all story was amazing and was not what I was expecting, and the ending was pretty great and closed things off nicely without being too neat, and it was a challenge to try and solve the mystery before the end and I have to take my hat off to Nigel McCrery for writing a complex and engrossing story that was utterly believable and terrifying.

The characters are continuing to evolve and now in the fifth novel we see some new and interesting characters that compliment the main people - as well as some interesting developments with existing characters.  You can tell that McCrery has a background of writing for television because the chapters are short and punchy, and the action is well paced to keep you interested without moving so fast that you can't keep up.  This is a compliment as some of the best writers at the moment are using this style and you can't help but draw comparisons to writers such as James Patterson and M.J. Arlidge.  Now I just have to wait for the next book in the series!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, October 18, 2018

There's a baddie running through this book by Shelly Unwin; illustrated by Vivienne To

There's a baddie running through this book.
Turn the pages, have a look!
There he goes, did you see?
Sound your siren, chase with me.

There's a baddie running through this book is a fast paced book that cries out to be shared with a group of children or one-on-one.  The main character is a racoon who oozes charm and cheek, racing through the book stealing things as they go.  The other characters join in the chase to try and stop the racoon, not an easy thing when you are quick and nimble - but maybe one last step is a step too far for this slippery little character.

There are loads of concepts here to enjoy with anthropomorphic characters that young children will recognise and connect with, along with some great language to help develop vocabularies with little ones.  The book is charming and quirky, and bound to become a firm favourite for younger children who will enjoy the pace and bounce of the story, and older children will enjoy the different characters and enjoy discovering all the little treasures within the illustrations.  

A great ANZAC book with the author living in Australia and the illustrator living in New Zealand.  Hopefully we will see more collaborations from their two artists as they have made an amazing  book.

If you like this book then try:
  • Diary of a wombat by Jackie French; illustrated by Bruce Whatley
  • This book just ate my dog! by Richard Byrne
  • If I had a raptor by George O'Connor
  • Barnaby Bennett by Hannah Rainforth; illustrated by Ali Teo
  • Elephants cannot dance! by Mo Willems
  • Wait! No paint! by Bruce Whately
  • I need my monster by Amanda Noll; illustrated by Howard McWilliam
  • Giggle, giggle, quack by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Betsy Lewin
  • Cushie Butterfield (she's a little cow) by Colin McNaughton
  • Don't push the button! by Bill Cotter

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, October 14, 2018

We don't eat our classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Penelope Rex was nervous.  It's not every day a little T. rex starts school.

It's not easy starting school, especially when you're a T. rex!  Penelope has everything she needs for her first day of school including a special backpack with ponies on it (ponies are delicious), and she has 300 tuna sandwiches for her first school lunch - but she wants to know who her classmates will be (this is very important).  

On her first day she discovers that her classmates are children!  Penelope is surprised at first, but then she eats them - because children are delicious.  Luckily her teacher tells her to spit the children out because you shouldn't eat your classmates.  Penelope tries to make up for her actions, but things go from bad to worse and she starts to feel very lonely.  She tries and tries to be good and make friends - but nothing works until she gets a taste of her own medicine.

This is one of those rare laugh out loud picture books that will appeal to the adults reading the story as much as the children listening.  This book can be shared one-on-one, but would also work well being read to a group.  Penelope is a lovable and slightly tragic character, and children will be able to relate to her very well as starting school can be very challenging for children.  The illustrations are charming, and the ridiculous idea of a T. rex going to school with human children made me smile the whole way through.  

If you like this book then try:
  • If I had a raptor by George O'Connor
  • Elephants cannot dance! by Mo Willems
  • I need my monster by Amanda Noll; illustrated by Howard McWilliam
  • Don't push the button! by Bill Cotter
  • Diary of a wombat by Jackie French; illustrated by Bruce Whatley
  • This book just ate my dog! by Richard Byrne
  • A is for musk ox by Erin Cabatingan & Matthew Myers
  • No T.Rex in the library by Toni Buzzeo; ilustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa
  • Click, clack, moo: Cows that type by Doreen Cronin
  • I am not a worm! by Scott Tulloch
  • Tadpole's promise by Jeanne Willis; illustrated by Tony Ross

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Juror no. 3 by James Patterson and Nancy Allen

Ruby Bozarth is a freshly minted lawyer trying to start out in small town Rosedale, Mississippi which is no easy task - especially when she finds herself assigned to represent a man accused of murder.  From the start the odds are stacked against her - she's young, she's female, and most of all the town is sure he's guilty.  The young woman who was murdered was from a well-to-do family a real socialite who was well known and apparently universally loved by all.  The accused is a young black man kicked out of college and returned to town in disgrace.  It's going to be an uphill battle to keep him out of jail because how can a man get a fair trial when everyone knows he did it?

As if one tough case isn't enough, Ruby finds herself fighting another seemingly open and shut case when someone she knows is accused of murder in rather sordid circumstances.  Fighting for someone's life in court is never easy, especially when the accused seems intent on not helping themselves.  As she digs deeper into the case it seems as though everyone is keeping secrets, and the last thing you need as a lawyer is a client keeping secrets - especially when you can't rely on witnesses either.  As the story plays out on the witness stand Ruby learns more about how the dance between prosecution and defence works - and just how dangerous practicing law in the good old state of Mississippi really can be.

It is always interesting to pick up a book by James Patterson with a new co-author as you never know what you are going to get - sometimes it's brilliant, sometimes it good, and sometimes it's not so great.  I wasn't sure what to expect with Juror no. 3 as none of the books I've read by Patterson and Co. before have ventured so much into the courtroom, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was very readable and showed a part of the crime genre that I haven't really found before.  There are times when the legal jargon gets a little annoying, but it's a minuscule part of the story and you can puzzle out what they are referring to from the context - but I guess that makes it more realistic anyway.

There are some great characters here, and in some ways it feels like it might have started as a Booskshots concept because it is two storylines woven together into one story.  Ruby is a great character, as are the people around her, and while this can be read as a standalone it would be nice to reconnect with Ruby and the town, because any town that has old blood like Rosedale is bound to have secrets and scandals that can be explored in a court of law.

If you like this book then try:
  • The shut-in by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski
  • Heist by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • 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
  • Airport code red by James Patterson and Michael White
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • City of the lost by Kelley Armstrong
  • Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
  • What was mine by Helen Klein Ross
  • Good me bad me by Ali Land
  • The edge of normal by Carla Norton

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The thirteenth coffin by Nigel McCrery

The thirteenth coffin is the fourth book in the DCI Mark Lapslie series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the other books in the series.  While you can read them on their own you will enjoy the series more if you read them in order.

When DCI Lapslie is called to a possible crime scene on his weekend off his is understandably annoyed, especially because it is a 'possible' crime scene.  The possible victim is a homeless man who dies in a room that was apparently sealed and impossible to enter, but the man is definitely dead and a search of the crime scene reveals a shocking surprise - carefully crafted coffins with carefully crafted dolls.  Some of the dolls are inside the coffins and show signs of violence and death, but there are also dolls that seem to be in perfect condition.

While they are trying to figure out the puzzle of the dolls outside the coffins a young bride is shot on her wedding day, and when Lapslie and his team return to the original crime scene they find the bride doll has been moved to a coffin and bears signs of having been shot - including a rather incriminating blood stain right where the bride was shot.  Lapslie is convinced that the dolls have a more sinister meaning than just representing gruesome deaths, and when his team uncover another murder that seems to be related to the dolls it seems as though his hunch is paying off - but Superintendent Rouse  is not convinced.  

When another victim is found the pressure builds as the team races to find the final victim before the killer can strike again.  When a thirteenth coffin is found at the original crime scene DCI Lapslie has a terrible sense of foreboding that the coffin is meant for him.  As the team begins to uncover more deaths that might be connected to the killer they have no idea just how determined the killer is to complete their mission, and the lengths they will go to to get what they want.  

This is a fantastic series, and although it may seem a little far fetched in places it is well written and keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.  There is great character development from story to story, and the characters have their faults and their flaws which makes them more relateable and realistic.  You can tell that Nigel McCrery has a television background, and there is a strong feel of the police procedural drama here, but that is what makes this such a great series.  

This series is really hard to review because the little twists and turns are what make it so great, racing against the book to try and solve the mystery before the big reveal and close at the end of the novel.  I have been really challenged at times to solve the mystery before the end, in this case I figured it out but there were enough twists that I was wondering if I really had until the end.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, September 3, 2018

Scream by Nigel McCrery

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

DCI Mark Lapslie has struggled with his synaesthesia in the past few years, and after a rather public collapse there have been concerns about his ability to do his job - especially from some of his fellow officers.  It has been a struggle, but thanks to cognitive therapy and a new drug regime the negative symptoms of his synaesthesia have become more bearable.  The timing couldn't be more perfect because while he is overseas preparing to deliver a presentation at a conference he receives a sound file - a woman screaming in absolute pain and terror.  Sending the file off for analysis, Lapslie jumps on the first available flight so he can follow the case - expecting to get in trouble for abandoning his presentation, but not really caring.

Back home DS Emma Bradbury has picked up a murder case, taking the lead in the absence of more senior staff.  It is a chance for her to prove what she can do, especially in a quiet little town where they don't see murder victims who appear to have been tortured very often.  The victim is a woman who appears to have suffered for some time before her death, and once they identify the victim she realises that the case is more complex than she first thought.  When it becomes clear that there is a link between the sound recording Lapslie received and the case Bradbury is working it results in an uncomfortable shift of power between DS and DCI as they both want to solve the case in their own way - and because there might be victims out there who are still alive if they can solve the case in time.

I have been thoroughly enjoying this series, more so than I would have expected because McCrery has quite a punchy writing style that at times almost seems a little abrupt, but that keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace.  This series is really tricky to review because there are little twists and turns that make the story thoroughly enthralling - but they are the twists and turns that you want other readers to discover rather than have you talk about them!  I highly recommend reading this series in order, and I am currently waiting with anticipation for the next book in the series to arrive so I can read it!  

This is a great series and with each book we learn more about both Lapslie and Bradbury which makes them even more engaging/endearing as characters, and makes you care about what happens to them just that little bit more (and in contract makes you glare balefully at some of the people who seem to delight in trying to mess things up for them!).

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, August 17, 2018

Broken by Rosie Lewis

Life as a foster parent is never dull, and in her time as foster parent Rosie Lewis has met and helped children facing all kinds of challenges.  Nothing so far has quite prepared her for Archie and his younger sister Bobbi.  The children have been removed from their mother and moved into foster care because there are concerns they might be neglected, but it is soon abundantly clear that there is more to their story than simple neglect.  As a foster parent Rosie has to engage with the parents, and she soon discovers that Archie and Bobbi's mother Tanya is more interested in her partner Jason and putting on the appearance of being a good mother - rather than actually being a good mother.

Archie is a little gentleman, perfectly polite and full of compliments - but it is only on the surface, and Rosie is more than a little concerned about what might be lurking under his civilised exterior.  Bobbi is completely different, a child that never seems to stop moving and is constantly demanding attention and hurting herself when she doesn't get what she wants.  Although the children are showing very different signs, it is clear to both Rosie and their social worker Danny that something is not right with the children.  As they slowly peel back the layers of protection the children have built around themselves, Rosie discovers that Archie has been hiding more than she knows.  As the pieces finally fall into place there is finally hope for Archie and Bobbi to heal and move on with their lives.

Broken tells the story of the months that Archie and Bobbi spent with Rosie - and it is a story that is moving, terrifying, and ultimately makes you believe in the kindness of strangers.  Some of these kinds of stories are just heart breaking, but Rosie tells the story of Archie and Bobbi in such a way that it gives you hope that things can change, and gives you hope that children can recover from neglect and abuse.  One of the most interesting aspects of this story for me is the manipulation of the children, and the sentiment that neglect is worse than abuse - something that I have long felt and didn't realise that some experts agree.  I have seen children who have been neglected and it just tears at your heart to see them suffering, while people say things like 'at least their parent isn't hitting them' - but the damage left by neglect seems to be linger much longer than cuts and bruises.

Rosie Lewis has a very personable writing style, and while she is sharing a story that is deeply personal (to both her and the children) she doesn't descend into gratuitous tactics, rather laying out the story 'warts and all' as it happened.  This story has moments that are almost too painful to read, and I would challenge anyone to read this book without feeling sympathy for Archie, Bobbi, Rosie and her family.  While it is a confronting read, we need stories like this to remind us that life can be hard, and it can be cruel - but there are also people out there who care and can pick up the pieces.

Take your time with this story and pause when you need to.  If you read this book and want to read other biographies from people who have lived through difficult experiences and trauma, then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, August 6, 2018

Blood and chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

When their rural property is attacked by the local towns people Vivian and her pack flee with their tails between their legs, licking their wounds and mourning the loss of key members of their pack.  Living in the city is challenging, the pack has been split up into different households and instead of wide open forests they have small patches of wood to run free in.  It's a dangerous time for the pack, their last leader died in the fire and they can't decide on a new leader which leaves everyone unsettled and playing power games.  For Vivian it is a time of coming to terms with loss, being disgusted by the behaviour of her age mates in the pack, and trying to avoid the attentions of the men who are starting to notice her change from girl to woman.  It seems as though nothing is going right - and then she meets Aiden.

Aiden is like no one she has ever met before - he is nothing like the brash and crude Five, and nothing like the men and wolves who have started sniffing around.  For the first time Vivian is spending time with humans rather than pack, and while the others can't understand her fascination with the 'meat boy', Aiden and his friends accept her as one of their own.  As the summer moves on there is an almost dream like quality to their relationship, a sweetness that Vivian has never seen with the wolves and for the first time she is tempted to tell a human what she really is.  It's a bad time to expose her secret though, because someone has killed a human - and everyone knows that once you have a taste for blood you can't stop the craving.

Blood and chocolate appeared on a recommended reading list recently and it made me want to pick it up and read it again to see if it had stood the test of time - and basically the answer is yes.  Annette Curtis Klause wrote a story focused on relationships, so although this is quite an old story now, it doesn't have all the little place markers that pinpoint it to a certain place in time.  It is the characters that make this such an amazing story, and it is the characters that stay with you long after the story ends.  In some ways the story is too short, because the story is so neatly written and the pace is quite quick, but it is a very enjoyable read.  If you have never read Blood and chocolate before then I highly recommend it, because while it is a very well written and interesting twist on the werewolf genre, it is also a very well written first love story and coming of age story.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The dead ex by Jane Corry

Vicki has left her old life behind - the good and the bad.  Living in a small seaside town and working as an aromatherapist, her old life is just a memory.  Her peace and quiet is shattered when there is a knock at her door and she discovers that her ex husband has been reported missing, and that she is a suspect in his disappearance.  It's a nightmare situation, especially when the police start to uncover little things that she has keep hidden, little secrets and little actions that may be innocent on the surface but made the police very suspicious.  When she is forced to admit that she has epilepsy it changes the tone of the investigation, especially when she admits that the seizures and medication she takes can cause memory lapses.  As the police and her lawyer investigate her past, secrets that Vicki thought long buried bubble to the surface and threaten to bury her - in grief, or in prison.

As a child Scarlet and her mother would play the game.  Sometimes it was a little scary, but Scarlet was proud of the fact that she and her mother played the game together and that she did a really good job even though she was only eight years old.  That all changes when they are playing the game and the police swoop in arresting Scarlet's mother and dumping Scarlet into the foster system.  For a sheltered young child like Scarlet the foster system is a nightmare of older children who bully her, a foster mother intent on making money and taking as little care of them as possible, and moments that will scar her for life.  The only thing she wants is to be reunited with her mother, but with her mother locked up in prison that is unlikely to happen anytime soon - and when her mother does something unspeakable in prison Scarlet is left confused and vulnerable.

The dead ex is a fast paced read that switches viewpoints between characters in the past and the present.  As you move through the present time, the glimpses of the past help you to unravel the story and untangle the little mysteries about why things have happened the way they have - helping you find little clues to what might be happening and why.  For some readers the switching viewpoints and points in time may be a little confusing and/or frustrating, but using this technique allows Corry to keep the story moving along at a decent speed without clumsy introductory chapters.  

This style suits Corry very well and it was a nice challenge to see if you could figure out where the story might be moving next.  It was also unusual to have a story focused around prisons and prison staff, and the tightly controlled world that exists behind those bars - and the things that aren't as tightly controlled as they should be.  Hopefully there are many more books to come from Corry.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla