Saturday, March 28, 2020

The runner by Stephen Leather

Sally Page works for MI5 in a junior position known as a "footie" - a person who helps keep legends authentic by paying bills, shopping with loyalty cards, and keeping up a social media presence.  It's supposed to be a short term gig for a few months before agents move on to more exciting work, but Sally has been working as a footie ever since she knocked her boss back when he made advances one night.  It's not easy watching other footies come and go from their office hidden in a suburban house in Wimbledon, but Sally stubbornly remains professional and does her job, working away in the office.   It isn't easy working as a footie, the routine can be repetitive and boring, and because you work for MI5 you still have to follow all the rules of other agents and not tell anyone what you do.  

It isn't dangerous work being a footie, well not normally, that all changes when Sally goes on a coffee run and comes back to find her colleagues dead and armed men in the house.  Unarmed and not trained to work in the field, Sally does the only thing she can - she runs.  The men start to stalk and hunt her across the streets of London, and Sally's only hope is to reach the relative safety of Thames House and her colleagues.  As the men hunt her Sally runs, which may not seem like a lot, but Sally lives to run and she can run like no one they have ever seen before.  As she learns more about why the men are chasing her it does little to change the fact that Sally will need to keep running to save her life in a race against time, and against a determined enemy that thinks nothing of leaving a bloody swath of destruction in their wake.  

Thrillers can be a little hit and miss, especially if they try and be too clever - but The runner hit just the right note and was a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing read.  Sally Page seems so ordinary, but she has a very unordinary time, dragging other people into the story along the way.  Stephen Leather has written a thriller that starts with an ordinary scene and slowly builds and develops so that you have the whole picture of what is happening, and the thrill of wondering what the ending will be.  Sally is a likeable and believable character, as are the other characters that help keep the action and storyline on track.  There are the expected characters, but they are well developed and don't come across as two dimensional or completely cliched.  

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, March 16, 2020

Careless whiskers by Miranda James

Careless whiskers is the twelve book in the Cat in the stacks mysteries so this review contains ***SPOILERS***if you have not read the earlier books in the series.  I highly recommend that you read this series in order, so if you haven't read the other books in the series start with Murder past due before readng any more of this review.

Life is never dull for semi-retired librarian and archivist Charlie Harris, especially with his charming cat Diesel by his side, and an alarming knack for finding himself in the middle of murder investigations on a regular basis.  His life has quietly slipped into a routine since his last encounter with a murder mystery, and he is looking forward to watching the Athena College theatre production that features his daughter Laura in a leading role, carefully directed by his son-in-law Frank.  It is a very exciting time for the theatre department, but the actor who has the male lead has a reputation for being difficult and Laura and Frank are both feeling the pressure and the stress.

When Charlie meets the infamous Luke Lombardi he is everything he has been told to expect - good and bad, and it doesn't take long for the arrogant actor to make his presence known.  Pushing down his urge to protect his family, Charlie tries to stay out of the drama, but when Lombardi dies during a performance Laura becomes a suspect and he is determined to protect her.  As Chief Deputy Kanesha Berry and her team start working the case Charlie tries to stay out of the way, not an easy feat in a small town where it seems like everyone knows everyone else, and your family is involved.  There is more than one mystery for the team to deal with however, and the drama is not limited to the stage.  Can Charlie stay out of trouble long enough to help solve the case?

Careless whiskers is yet another charming and thoroughly engaging story in the Cat in the stacks mystery series.  Once again Miranda James has brought together an interesting cast of characters that bring drama and depth to the story, and once again familiar characters are like family not only for Charlie and Diesel, but also for us.  There are the interactions and conversations that we expect to see when Charlie in on a case, and there are the usual charming moments between Charlie and Diesel.  It would be all too easy for the series to become stagnant or terribly predictable, but James has managed to maintain the charm of the series, expanding the cast of characters over time to keep it grounded and realistic.

This is a fantastic series and I have recommended it to different people over the years, partly because I think it's great that there is a series with a librarian in the lead (professional pride and all), but also because the entire is relatable and charming.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Into the fire by Gregg Hurwitz

Into the fire is the fifth book in the Orphan X series, so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the rest of the books in the series.  This is a series that really needs to be read in order, so start with Orphan X and read the sereis in order.

Evan Smoak is used to keeping secrets and hiding himself behind a facade - first as Orphan X, and more recently as the Nowhere Man.  Playing a role is more natural than being himself, and the longer he keeps up his walls, the harder it is for him to make connectons with those around him.  After taking out the President of the United States, he might finally have a chance to be free of his past, a fresh start leaving Orphan X behind forever - but is he also ready to leave the Nowhere Man behind?  The test of his resolve comes when he gets a call from Max Merriweather, whose cousin dropped him in the middle of a dangerous game of cat and mouse. 

When Grant is brutally tortured and mudered he spills the beans that he gave an isurance policy to his cousin, and now Max is the target, unless the Nowhere Man can help him.  With his apartment trashed, and not wanting to put Grant's family in more danger, Max is willing to follow Evan's instructions to go underground, but instead of solving the case straight away, Evan finds himself travelling down a rabbit warren of a conspiracy within a conspiracy, wrapped up in secrets and dangerous enemies that will stop at nothing to get what they want - and they desperately want what Max has.  When Evan is injured it makes his job infinitely more dangerous, and with people counting on him he has no time to recover.  In what might be his most dangerous case to date, the Nowhere Man will have to risk it all to get results - and the cost might be higher than he can bear if he doesn't get to the bottom of the conspiracy.

The Orphan X series has been a surprising find for me, I don't normally read pure thrillers but I saw Orphan X in a bookshop and the cover looked really interesting, and then the blurb was intrguing so I requested a copy and read it thinking I would recommend it to my brother (which I did), but I have been devouring the series ever since.  The pace of the action is spot on, keeping up a good pace that keeps everyhing moving without moing so fast that it feels like things are moing too quickly.  The action scenes are slick and well thought out, and the characters are well developed and all too easy to care about.  Evan is a complex character and feels realistic for what he has been through adn what he does, and the other characters add depth and reality to the series.  This is a superb series and I can't wait to the next one comes out!

If you like this book then try:
  • Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
  • The killing kind by Chris Holm
  • The spider heist by Jason Kasper
  • 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
  • Spare me the truth by C.J. Carver
  • 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

Friday, March 13, 2020

The list by Patricia Forde

Letta has spent her entire life in the protected world of the Ark, a safe haven for the survivors of a ravaged world.  The leader of Ark, John Noa, has worked hard to protect the people of Ark and his carefully laid out rules help everyone live together in a world that has drastically changed.  Everyone has their place, and for Letta her place is working as the wordsmith's apprentice, a role that has great responsibility but also allows her the privilege of learning and speaking words that are not List words.  The List is a list of 700 carefully chosen words that provide people with the words they need to communicate, but does not include the words that cause conflict and confusion.  There are specialist words, but they are carefully guarded and known only to the wordsmith and the people who need them. 

When Benjamin, the wordsmith, tells Letta that he is leaving the Ark to search for words she is not worried -- but then she receives word that he is dead and her world begins to slowly cave in around her.  With Benjamin gone it falls to Letta to be he wordsmith, and one of the tasks their leader has given her is to reduce the List even further, which goes against what Letta believes.  As Letta learns more about the world she begins to realise that nothing is what it seems, and that John Noa is keeping secrets from the people of Ark.  With people being hauled away by the gavvers for the smallest of transgressions, and with the arrival of a teenage boy who seems to know a great deal more about her world than she does, Letta is slowly realising that nothing is what it seems - and that a rotten heart beats at the centre of the Ark.

It takes something truly special to stand out in the world of books, and The list was one of those rare books that was a stand out from the beginning.  Seeing the world of Ark through Letta's eyes takes you on the journey with her, from innocent and obedient member of Ark through to wide eyed discovery that things are not what she thought - through to the heart break of betrayal and having the truth laid bare.  The theme of a dystopian future is not unusual, particularly over the past ten years or so, but Patricia Forde has created a world that is not too distant from our own, and that is accessible for younger readers than the traditional teen dystopian series.  It was easy to connect with Letta and her world, and Forde was clever with her world and character development without being too clever.

I recommended The list to a few people before I read it, and now that I have read it I am recommending it to even more people as it is one of those rare children's books that can be picked up by children, teens, and adults - and enjoyed equally by everyone.

If you like this story then try:
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The declaration by Gemma Malley
  • Nest of lies by Heather McQuillan
  • Breathe by Sarah Crossan
  • The barcode tattoo by Suzanne Weyn
  • Winter of fire by Sherryl Jordan
  • The limit by Kristin Landon
  • The world around the corner by Maurice Gee
  • Stone heart by Charlie Fletcher
  • Hollow Earth by John Barrownman and Carole Barrowman

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The perfect mother by Caroline Mitchell

Roz never intended to get pregnant, and it has left her with very few choices.  She's too Catholic to get rid of the baby, and she can't have a relationship with the babies father, so her only choice is to offer the baby up for adoption.  Wanting to give her baby the best chance of a good life, Roz signs up with an adoption agency, and she soon finds herself connected with a couple that seem perfect for her and her baby.  They are wlling to pay for her to come and live with them in New York through her pregnancy, and they will give her money that will set her up with a new life.  It's an offer that is too good to be true, the only catch is that Roz will need to agree to serecy because they want to pass the baby off as their own. 

Jetting off to New York is the start of an adventure for Roz, because although she has talked to the wife on the phone, she doesn't know exactly who they are.  The couple will only reveal who they are once Roz has signed a non disclosure agreement, and with very few choices left Roz signs the agreement and is introduced to the couple - Hollywood power couple Sheridan Sinclair and Daniel Watson.  It's overwhelming for anyone, especially a naïve Irish girl like Roz, and she is too in awe of the couple to question some of the odd things that seem to be happening.  Sheridan is by turns warm and friendly and old and controlling. Roz tries to get on with her, but Sheridan seems determined to control every aspect of her life.  When Roz starts finding articles about Sheridan and Daniel in unexpected places she can't help but feel a little paranoid, but as time marches on and she feels more and more like a prisoner she comes to realise that she has no idea who she is dealing with - and that she is completely at Sheridan's mercy.

The perfect mother is a tense psychological thriller that starts with a bang sometime near the present, and then goes back in time to bring you up to the present day through chapters that show you what is happening from the point of view of Roz and Sheridan.  The characters are well developed, and while the three main characters of Roz, Sheridan, and Daniel are the ones that have the most development and presence, thought has gone into the other characters in the book and they are developed enough to find their own places in the story without overwhelming the main characters.  The setting is interesting and lends itself to all sorts of possibilities, and it is all too easy for your mind to run away with the possibilities.

It is tempting to jump to conclusions through the novel, and there are little seeds and hints that make you want to guess what is coming - but in the end things did not go where I was expecting them too (somewhat unusual when you read heaps of crime and thrillers).  This was an excellent read, and I will be looking for more books from Caroline Mitchell to see if her other books are as good as The perfect mother.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Deadly little scandals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Deadly little secrets is the sequel to Little white lies and this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first book in the series. As always I highly recommend reading any series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes in order for the most enjoyment.

Sawyer Taft made a deal with the devil (her maternal grandmother Lillian Taft) that she would spend her debutante season for a mix of materialistic (cold hard trust fund in the form of a college fund) and personal reasons (to find the mysterious father her mother never talks about).  It all went about as well as can be expected for someone who was raised on the wrong side of the tracks, and against the odds Sawyer managed to find her place in her family and her families wider social circles.  She also managed to find the identity of her father, and the fact he is her uncle has left her reeling and undecided about what to do.  Part of her wants to tell Lily that they are half sisters rather than cousins, but after all the drama in the previous months it just seems like it will do nothing but cause pain - Lily doesn't deserve that, and Sawyer doesn't want to risk their friendship.

With the arrival of warmer weather the Easterling family, with Sawyer in tow, head to their lake house on Regal Lake.  Sawyer has no idea what to expect, but the mansion like lake house has plenty of room for the whole family, and for Lily and Sawyer there is an added surprise - on their beds are some understated boxes that welcome them as prospects to join the White Gloves.  Lily knows all about the White Gloves, and knows what an honour it is to be chosen as a potential member - even if Sawyer thinks it is just one more strange thing wealthy families do.  When they discover human remains during one of the White Gloves outings, Sawyer and her friends are drawn into the mystery of who the remains belong to, as well as what happened to the third girl who was part of the pregnancy pact that resulted in Sawyer.  Life is never simple and straight forward for Sawyer, especially when it comes to her family, and this time the secrets she is trying to uncover could have deadly consequences.

Little white lies was a fantastic read, and it was going to take a really good story to match it - and Jennifer Lynn Barnes has delivered once again.  I read Deadly little scandals in a single day because I didn't want to put it down.  The pace is perfect, with a balance between current events, events that lead up to current events, and a peak into the past that has lead to the present events (not saying anymore you need to read it for yourself).  Sawyer and her world are once again brought to perfect life, the story moving along at a decent clip, leading you down a path of discovery and dropping clues for you along the way - another chance for you to see if you can figure out what is happening before the big reveal at the end. 

Barnes is a very adept storyteller, not just because she creates characters you care about, but also because she can balance a fast pace with enough details and moments to keep you connected to the story.  You care about Sawyer and her family, and it is all too easy to understand the difficult position she is in, and why she feels the way she does.  Barnes also has a great sense of humour, that comes through with some of the moments in the book, as well as some of the situations and the way people handle things that do happen.

This doesn't feel like the end for Sawyer and her family, and I sincerely hope that there is more to come because this is a fantastic series that appeals to teen and adult readers alike.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza

Being involved with a high profile case is supposed to help advance your career and set you on the fast track to detective and higher - but for Kate Marshall it turned into a disaster.  Attacked by the killer and left badly injured, she then has to suffer through the public scrutiny and criticism of her involvement with the case - and the killer.  Kate may have suffered the physical attack, but the public attack leaves her career in tatters and it takes her years to rebuild her life and shake off the after effects of the attack.  Living in a small coastal town and teaching at a local University has given her purpose, and her background as a former police officer makes her the perfect person to lecture on cold cases.

It has been fifteen years since the original Nine Elms killer was caught and sentenced for his crimes, and it seems as though someone has decided to take the case from closed and cold to open and hot.  Kate has no idea there is a copycat on the loose until a body is discovered near where she lives.  Drawn into the case by the proximity of the murder and a request from a family to help solve a cold case, Kate finds herself dragged back into a past she would rather forget.  As she digs into the past Kate gets closer and closer to the truth, and closer and closer to a deadly danger that she won't see coming.  With her past and present colliding, Kate will have to be on her guard because she may have escaped the Nine Elms killer and brought him to justice, but that is not the end of the danger.

I have read a few books from Robert Bryndza and was eager to pick up Nine Elms when I saw it at my local library - and I was not disappointed.  I have seen a few reviews that have talked the book down, but it feels like they picked up the book with different expectations about what the book would be and were therefore disappointed.  Kate was an interesting character and while she may be a little cliché in some respects that is almost always the case when you are introduced to a new character, there is only so much character development you can do in a book without drowning the reader in detail.  Bryndza created a story and background that was interesting and kept up your interest, bringing the past into the present through the cold case and memories - effective and provided clues and hints about what to look for without hitting you in the face.

Nine Elms was a great start for a series, and hopefully there will be more stories in the series, though it is not necessarily clear how the story can move forward at the moment.  Was a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read - both for me and my senior citizen mother.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Unleashed by Amy McCulloch

Unleashed is the sequel to Jinxed and this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first book in the series.  I highly recommend reading this series in order, so make sure you read Jinxed before reading this review.

Lacey Chu wakes up in hospital confused about how she ended up there, and even more confused when she realises almost a month has passed with her unconscious in the hospital.  Retuning home is somewhat surreal, especially with her mother acting strangely.  The feeling only gets worse when she discovers that she has been expelled from Profectus because she no longer has the required level of baku, and she can't even access the help they give scholarship students to buy a baku so they can attend.  Returning to St Agnes is a strange feeling, but that's nothing compared to the sudden reappearance of Jinx who warns her not to let her little baku Slick.  

The warning comes in time to stop Lacey from being updated by Slick, an act that would have wiped all ambition from her mind.  Suddenly it all makes sense, the sudden change in her mothers behaviour, and why she saw the changes she did in Monica Chan when she discovered her hidden in the depths of the Moncha building.  Discovering the secret is only part of the battle, how can she expect to bring down a corrupt company when everyone is so dependent on their baku?  With her friends by her side, and with a little help from Jinx, Lacey starts fighting back against the forces that are trying to control the world through Moncha, but is going to be an uphill battle and the other side is prepared to fight dirty and deadly to get what they want.

Unleashed is the sequel to Jinxed and completes a brilliant duology.  McCulloch has kept up the pace from Jinxed, keeping a strong focus on the characters who are at the heart of the story but also keeping up the tension and pace of the story.  I was a little surprised that I powered through the story so quickly, it was so absorbing and addictive that I didn't want to put it down, and it was so well written that it almost reads itself!  A must read series for fans of thrillers with just a touch of conspiracy theories and corporate bad guys.

If you like this book then try:
  • The Jewel by Amy Ewing
  • The Ones by Daniel Sweren-Becker
  • Wither by Lauren DeStefano
  • Honor among thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre
  • Red queen by Victoria Aveyard
  • The girl of fire and thorns by Rae Carson
  • The scorpion rules by Erin Bow
  • Adaptation by Melinda Lo
  • The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • XVI by Julia Karr
  • The glass arrow by Kristen Simmons
  • The 100 by Kass Morgan
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • The testing by Joelle Charbonneau
  • Proxy by Alex London
  • ACID by Emma Pass
  • Reboot by Amy Tintera
  • XVI by Julia Karr
  • In the after by Demitria Lunetta

Reviewed by Brilla