Friday, May 30, 2014

A fatal stain by Elise Hyatt

A fatal stain is the sequel to Dipped, stripped and dead and French polished murder so this review contains some ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in the first and second books. While the books can be read independently, if you like to read a series in order then stop now and read the first two books in the series.

Dyce has managed to stumble across another amazing furniture find, a gorgeous table that she picked up at a perpetual garage sale.  Dyce hoped she could strip off the badly applied finish on the table and maybe end up with a nice simple pine table, but what she gets instead is an expensive table that has been badly finished to make it look like a cheaper wood.  Oh, and did I mention the blood stain that was hidden under the layers of stain?  The blood stain creates something of a quandary because Dyce is about to marry a detective and it would be a little frowned upon if she chose to destroy the evidence of a crime being committed - even though there appears to be no evidence an actual crime was committed.

With a somewhat typical disregard for her own safety Dyce decides to do a little investigating of her own before she mentions the table and the blood stains to her fiancé.  It doesn't seem like such a bad idea, but you would think by now that Dyce would have learned to leave the investigating to the experts, especially when she gets a visit from one of the potential "suspects" telling her to back off.  Walking a fine line is never easy, especially when you are walking the fine line juggling wedding plans, your best friends relationship problems, and a child who has an invisible llama as a friend.  One thing you can say for Dyce is her life is never boring, and it is going to get very interesting (read deadly) if she can't figure out what happened and whodunit before they decide to shut her up - permanently.

The daring finds mysteries are fun, laugh out loud funny, and have some seriously tricky murder mysteries to solve - an addictive series that is just begging for another instalment.  Dyce is down to Earth, attracts more than her fair share of bad luck, and is fiercely independent and determined to make it on her own terms.  Her best friend is not what you would expect but he perfectly balances Dyce's neuroses with a few of his own (including an apparent obsession with colour coordination), and his relationships also add to the fun. 

In this latest instalment in the series it seems as though things are going smoothly, with the impending nuptials, but we should all have learned by now that nothing is plain sailing for Dyce and the people in her life.  Because of the introduction of Cas and Nick the cast of A fatal stain is bigger than the previous books, but that allows for a greater depth in terms of the character interactions but also allows for so many more misunderstandings and laugh out loud moments - and then of course there is E and Peesgrass.  I love this series and had to wait patiently with each book for my mother to read them first and it says something that a woman in her 60's and a younger person like myself can enjoy the same series. 

Sadly it does feel like this may be the last book in the series, or at least the end of the  current way the series is written because of the relationship with Cas and the changes that happen (I won't spoil what happens for you) because of that relationship.  Hopefully Hyatt can find the time and inclination to write more in the series, after checking into the author behind the pen name I can see she is a very busy author with her fingers in many different genre pies so hopefully she can either find a way to bring us more Dyce stories - or at least create a new series that has the same blend of murder mystery, drama, romance, and humour. 

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Nearly gone by Elle Cosimano

Nearly "Leigh" Boswell has one simple goal - work hard in school so she can earn the $25,000 scholarship that will get her out of the trailer park she lives in.  It is a dream worth pursuing and will get her away from her mothers fate, working as a stripper to put food on the table and keep them in their trailer.  The race for the scholarship is a two horse race between Nearly and her friend Anh, and both of them want it pretty badly.  To make a good impression on her college applications and to qualify for the scholarship Leigh spends several hours a week tutoring students who need the extra help.  Tutoring helps Leigh with her future, but it also means she knows a huge cross section of the school from the popular and the jocks to the outsiders. 

When one of her tutoring students is attacked and left with a number on her arm Leigh is bothered, but not particularly worried.  Then another student is attacked, but this time it is not such a happy ending, and the number on their arm seems to taunt Leigh.  When a third student is attacked and another number is left, it appears that something sinister is happening to different students at the school - the one thing they have in common is a tutor named Leigh.  As the end of the school year draws near, the deaths threaten to derail Leigh's hopes of the scholarship, because without the minimum number of tutoring hours she is ineligible. 

To make matters even more complicated Leigh has come to the attention of the police and they have "encouraged" the school narc to get close to Leigh and find out what she knows and what is happening at the school.  It might have worked too if Leigh hadn't overheard them planning the move, and if she wouldn't have naturally been suspicious about someone like Reece Whelan approaching her at school.  With each death it becomes clearer and clearer that someone is after Leigh, but why target Leigh and why try to frame her?

Nearly gone is a tense psychological thriller that is the perfect blend of adrenaline and brain teaser as you try and figure out who is after Leigh and why.  Blended through this intense drama is a touch of blossoming romance, and a dash of family drama as you worm your way into Leigh's world.  All of the drama and action is balanced with a unique touch of the supernatural, a blend that I have not encountered before and that I find intriguing and addictive.  Leigh is able to taste the emotions of people she touches, able to discern if they are angry, frustrated, or hiding something based on how they taste to her senses and this adds a mind blowing facet to what is already an intense and thought provoking premise.  Things could easily have gotten silly, far fetched, or just weird, but Cosimano has blended together seemingly conflicting elements to create a unique read that I just couldn't put down once I started it.

Nearly gone won't appeal to everyone because it is something of a niche read, but if you give it a chance you will be pleasantly surprised.  It may take a chapter or two for you to get used to the taste and feel of the novel, but once you are used to the style you will be hooked.  This is a fascinating story wrapped up in a brain teaser as you try and figure out who the murderer is and why they might be targeting Leigh.  The ending is satisfying and closes off the storyline nicely, but not to the point where it is not possible to continue as a series.

If you like this book then try:
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • The book of blood and shadow by Robin Wasserman
  • Acceleration by Graham McNamee
  • Death cloud by Andrew Lane
  • Crime seen by Jenny Pausacker
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • Guy Langman, crime scene procrastinator by Josh Berk
  • Dead to you by Lisa McMann
  • The limit by Kristin Landon

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

File M for murder by Miranda James

File M for murder is the third book in the Cat in the stacks mysteries and while it can be read as a stand alone book I would recommend that you read Murder past due and Classified as murder first as this review may contain some ***SPOILERS*** about Charlie and Diesel.

Athena College has a new writer-in-residence, playwright Connor Lawton.  Lawton is an Athena native, even though he moved away when he was a young child, and the college was lucky to have him - even though he has a reputation for being arrogant and opinionated.  Charlie doesn't expect to have a lot to do with Lawton, but then his daughter Laura arrives in town to teach at the college for a semester and Charlie learns that Lawton and Laura were once a couple.  While they may have broken up, Lawton is the reason Laura got the job and there is soon some tension between them as Lawton seems to expect to pick up where they left off. 

When Laura finds Lawton dead she becomes the number one suspect, but Charlie knows there must be more to the story because Laura is no murderer.  While Deputy Berry would prefer Charlie stay out of the investigation, Charlie can't help but get involved to protect Laura.  When another death comes to Athena it seems as though the killer is still out there and trying to make a point, and they are not afraid to strike out at people they see as a threat.  As Charlie tries to get to the bottom of the mystery he can't help but feel that he is missing something important, something that is just out of reach.  But can Charlie solve the mystery and save day before something else happens?

Finding a series you really enjoy can be a blessing and a curse - a blessing because you know you are going to enjoy the next book in the series, and a curse because once you catch up with all the published books you have to wait until the next one is published.  I have the additional curse of reading the series at the same time as my mother which means that if I am not careful she snaffles the next book in the series off my to read next shelf and I have to wait for her to finish reading it (and she reads much slower than I do).  I never expected to enjoy the Cat in the stacks mysteries as much as I do - for me it was a quirky series that I "should" try because I was a librarian and I had owned a Maine coon before.  What I found was a series that is funny (sometimes laugh out loud funny), heart warming, loaded with well developed characters, and packed with murder mysteries that challenge your assumptions and your ability to untangle some very tangled motives and potential suspects.

The cat in the stacks mysteries are an enjoyable break from some of the other, heavier, crime genre novels I read (insert names like James Patterson and Tess Gerritsen here).  Don't get me wrong I really enjoy the big names and the pace and the tension, but they lack some of the pure charm that comes from the interactions between Charlie and Diesel and their family and friends.  My one bug bear is that the person who draws the covers of the books has either never seen a real Maine coon or else they have seen a very strange Maine coon because the cat on the covers appears to be a short haired cat and lacks the rich coat and ruff that makes the breed look so majestic.  I can't wait to jump into the next book in the series.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The here and now by Ann Brashares

Prenna James and her mother came to New York when she was twelve, but they didn't come from somewhere, they came from somewhen.  The future is damaged by global warming and is swarming with a deadly killer - the humble mosquito and the deadly plagues they carry.  Prenna and her mother are the lucky ones, the healthy few who were sent back in time to live in safety while their leaders try and discover the tipping point, the fork that will save the future from destruction.  To keep the community safe, and to protect the time natives around them, everyone follows strict rules - they don't seek outside medical attention, they do not become intimate with time natives, they take their vitamins, and they deal with the subversive few swiftly and with deadly precision.

Prenna tries her best to follow the rules, but any normal teenager would struggle against the strict rules of the community and the constant monitoring from the leaders and counselors.  At seventeen  Prenna is starting to see through the half-truths and the lies, and she is pushing harder and harder against her boundaries.  When she discovers a shocking secret that has been hidden from her for years, Prenna takes a huge leap of faith and strikes out of her own - her only support is Ethan Jarves.  Pushed into close contact with a time native, Prenna finds herself drifting closer and closer to breaking one of the biggest rules of them all as they chase down one of the possible forks in the road to the future.

The here and now is an intriguing and thought provoking novel about time travel, taking something that seems so theoretical and potentially dangerous and ties everything up into a mystery and science fiction thriller that will keep you wondering what will happen next.  One of the theories of time travel (if you have read enough science fiction or watched enough episodes of Dr Who) is that a small change now can have huge consequences for the future- positive or negative.  Changing whether a person lives or dies can change the entire course of future events, changing the past for future generations.  Without going into the science behind the story too much, Brashares creates a completely rational and yet thought provoking idea of a tightly controlled community sent back into the past to save the future, where everyone is restricted in what they do so that they don't negatively impact the future - it is both oohhhh and duh at the same time.

I have read a few books that have attempted the whole time travel to save the future idea, but this is the first book I have read where I think the author was actually able to pull it off really well - not only making it all make sense, but also making it an extremely good read at the same time.  I have not read any of Brashares books before so can not compare The here and now to her other work, but I was really impressed with how easily the story flowed and how strong the characters were - this was a mind bending and addictive read that I didn't want to put down once I had picked it up.  A fabulous way to spend a cold and windy Saturday afternoon.

If you like this book then try:
  • The testing by Joelle Charbonneau
  • The lab by Jack Heath
  • Eve by Anna Carey
  • Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Inside out by Maria V. Snyder
  • The limit by Kristin Landon
  • The sky village by Monk Ashland and Nigel Ashland
  • Legend by Marie Lu
  • The roar by Emma Clayton
  • Slated by Teri Terry
  • XVI by Julia Karr
  • Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Star split by Kathryn Lasky

Reviewed by Brilla

One step too far by Tina Seskis

One day Emily Coleman wakes up and walks out of her life for good leaving behind her marriage, her family, her whole life.  For months her life has drifted, and she and her husband Ben have drifted apart because of that moment, a moment she will never forget and can not face alone.  Taking her money and the basics she boards a train and leaves Manchester for a new life in London, leaving Emily behind and becoming Catherine "Cat" Brown, a name she thought was left in her past.  Starting over is not easy, especially when she could only plan so far ahead, but she soon finds her guardian Angel and settles into her life.  Back in Manchester her husband Ben wakes to find her gone and begins to search for her - a search that seems hopeless because she chose to leave.

Fast forward a few months and things seem to be on track for Cat, but there is a secret from her past that she must face if she is to truly move forward.  As her new life takes hold, flashes of the past surface, flashes about her twin sister Caroline who seems to always step in and ruin everything for Emily.  But Caroline and Emily are both a result of their upbringing, each in their own way damaged by a mother who held all her love for the daughter she expected, and the distant father who preferred spending time with his mistress rather than his wife and daughters.  When her old world and new world collide Cat/Emily must face the past head on, no matter how painful it may be - and she must choose the life she wants to keep, the old or the new.

One step too far starts with a simple premise - an unhappy woman leaves her life behind because of something that happened, something that has driven a wedge between her and her husband.  It seems relatively straight forward, you may even think you can guess what the secret is, and then things start to get a little twisted and complex as you are thrust into Emily's life and her past.  The main characters of the novel are Emily/Cat, her twin sister Caroline, her mother Frances, her father Andrew, and her husband Ben - and it is through all of them that you develop a complete picture of the events that lead to Emily abandoning her life to become Cat - a somewhat shallow and brittle version of her former self.

At first I found this to be an addictive read, I was hooked from the first page and read the novel in a few bursts getting in as much of the story as possible in each sitting.  The style is a little unusual, pulling together lots of different points in time and blending them into the main timeline of Cat and her adventures in her new life, with each little segue adding depth to the present day story.  I was so involved with the story that at times I found myself forgiving the author when the story seemed a little too unbelievable, or when it felt like something was missing - but unfortunately at the end of the novel I just couldn't do that anymore. 

The ending is a surprise, when you discover what drove Emily away, but it also feels like it was rushed, that the author ran out of time or patience to finish it off properly.  Then there is all this flurry of activity at the very end that just seems wrong - like an after thought.  On the whole this is a good read that could have been great without the window dressing at the end.  It will be interesting to see if Seskis can write more novels with this mix of character and tension building - without feeling the need to make things all neat and tidy.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, May 23, 2014

The naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Life with her fathers large (and very Italian) family has settled into a routine for seventeen year old Cassandra "Cassie" Hobbes, but there is always something missing.  Growing up with her mother, it wasn't until her mother was murdered that Cassie came to live with her fathers family - even though they never found her mothers body the crime scene left little doubt that her mother was truly gone.  With her father deployed overseas Cassie lives with her Nonna, and works at a diner as a waitress.  It is at work that she first meets an intriguing young man who gives her a business card from the FBI - a card with the note "Cassandra please call" scrawled on the back.  When she calls the number on the card she discovers Agent Briggs and the naturals.

Cassie is a natural, because of the way she was raised Cassie is a natural profiler - she can read people with a level of skill that takes most people years (even decades) to achieve.  A small team in the FBI taps the potential of naturals to help solve cold cases, grooming them for a career with the FBI.  In a very small space of time Cassie leaves everything she has known and enters the strange new world of naturals where she discovers there are more than just natural profilers - there is the human lie detector who can tell if you are lying, the statistician who can read patterns and interpret huge amounts of data, there is the emotion reader who shares few emotions of his own, and of course there is the other profiler.

They are supposed to work on cold cases, stay away from real crime scenes, and learn the skills that will make them crack FBI agents when they "grow up" - but someone has other plans.  A murderer has been leaving bodies here and there, bodies far from home and in different states so that they will be harder to track.  A killer with a goal in mind, and that goal is Cassie.  When Cassie makes a connection between the murders and her own life it seems as though the FBI will have to accept her help and the help of the other naturals, but Agent Briggs and his boss don't want to risk their little pet project and Cassie soon realises she is going to have to make some decisions of her own.  To get to the truth she so desperately wants Cassie is going to have to risk it all - and she has no idea just how much she has to lose.

The naturals was completely absorbing from the first page, an addictive and adrenaline fuelled ride of highs and lows and twists and turns that leaves you wondering "whodunit" from the first page to the mind bending conclusion.  Cassie and her world could be just around the corner, a secret world where government agencies tap into the potential of the next generation and mould them into the perfect federal agents who can operate without all the cumbersome trappings of computers and machinery.  The blend of viewing the world from Cassie's point of view, and the killers point of view cranks up the tension and keeps you guessing about what will; happen next, and then something mind blowing happens and you don't care what comes next because what is happening now is just so much more important. 

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is an amazing writer who has a deft touch when it comes to balancing strong characters and keeping the action moving - too many authors fail to create a rich world and clearly defined characters without swamping the action with too much detail, that is not the case with Barnes.  There are only a handful of authors who have been able to do justice to the idea of teen special agents or spies, and while this is not your typical teen secret agent novel, Barnes deserves a place in this genre.  I seriously hope there will be more books set in Cassie's world, although the way The naturals was written, and the premise of the series means this may not happen - which would be a real shame.

If you like this book then try:
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • Acceleration by Graham McNamee
  • Hate list by Jennifer Brown
  • Guy Langman, crime scene procrastinator by Josh Berk
  • A girl named Digit by Annabel Monahgan
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • Nickel plated by Aric Davis
  • Dead to you by Lisa McMann
  • Crime seen by Jenny Pausacker
  • Burning blue by Paul Griffin
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Such a pretty girl by Laura Wiess
  • Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The trench by Steve Alten

The trench is the sequel to Meg so this reviews contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read Meg.  While you can read The trench independently of reading Meg, if you like reading series in order then I suggest you read Meg first.

It has been years since the Meg rose from the Mariana Trench and terrorised the world with her monstrous size and even more monstrous appetite.  She may have been killed, but her legacy is now a massive killing machine entertaining the tourists in the Tanaka Lagoon - everyday Angel leaves the crowd in awe with her massive size and power.  She is a marvel of nature, grown to massive size and held captive by an "escape proof" lagoon, but they said the Titanic was unsinkable and we all know what happened there!  When she feels the urge to mate Angel begins to test the boundaries of her world and attacks the giant metal gate that keeps her prisoner, the gate that Jonas Taylor has asked to be sealed for years. 

When she has her first taste of human flesh and blood Angel ramps up her attempts to escape and succeeds, leaving the Tanaka Lagoon behind as she follows her instincts into the open ocean.  Her escape is big news, but Taylor and his team are confident they can track her because of the tracker they tagged her with.  But dealing with her mother should have taught them all that you can not assume anything about a prehistoric shark with the size and strength to tackle any creature on or under the sea.  As she travels up the coast of America Angel satisfies her taste for humans and sea creatures alike, leaving a trail of death and destruction as she follows her instincts.  Hot on her tail are Taylor and the team trying to recapture Angel, but they are not all after the same thing.

While Jonas Taylor tracks the mega shark along the coast of America, his wife Terry Taylor is facing challenges of her own.  Drawn into the depths of the Mariana Trench by the wealthy and eccentric Benedict Singer, Terry is in a battle of wits that she has to win if she wants to survive to return to the surface.  In the Mariana Trench lies the Benthos, a custom made submersible of immense size that provides a base of operations for Singer and his men to explore the Mariana Trench.  Singer is hunting for something in the depths of the trench, and he doesn't care how many men he loses in the process.  When the submersible Proteus is attacked and implodes, Singer has no hesitation calling in his other submersibles to carry on the work - but there is a pack of killers swirling around the Benthos and they are as patient as they are deadly.

The trench is a worthy sequel for Meg, a gripping adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat as you see the facts unfold before you in a story that splits into two strands before intertwining back into one story for a satisfying ending.  Terry and Jonas become equal players in this story, each of them fighting for their lives in their own way, trying to solve the mystery of what is happening around them before it is too late.  It has been some time since I read Meg, but a lot of the story was till swirling around in my mind and it didn't take long to get back into the story and I was a little surprised by how quickly I made my way through the 432 pages of the novel. 

My one real grumble with this story is the number of times Alten said very similar things about Angel and the way she sensed things or how she was able to detect things - it felt a little bit like he was trying to ram a biology lesson down my throat with the story and it got more than a little annoying towards the end.  I am keen to read the third book in the series but may have to wait as the local library no longer has a copy - not too surprising when you realise how long ago these books were first published - but they are still a good read and have the potential to make an amazing movie, or even a television mini-series.

If you like this then try:
  • Meg by Steve Alten
  • Ruins by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Jurassic park by Michael Crichton
  • Congo by Michael Crichton

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, May 16, 2014

Death of a country fried redneck by Lee Hollis

Death of a country fried redneck is the second book in the Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery series so although you can read the books independently this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not already read Death of a kitchen diva.  For the most enjoyment read the series in order.

It has been quiet in Bar Harbour since Hayley cleared her name, but that peace and quiet is seriously rocked when Hayley learns that country superstar Wade Springer is coming to Bar Harbour for two benefit concerts to support the work of the local university.  Hayley is a huge (okay super huge) fan of Wades and the prospect of him coming to town has her acting like a love-struck teenager - and she will do almost anything to meet him.  When she learns that he has fired his personal chef it seems like the perfect opportunity for Hayley to meet him, after all she is a fantastic cook (even if she does say so herself).  But landing the gig is only the start of her adventure with Wade, because in very short order one of his entourage is found murdered on one of the tour buses!

Suddenly their quiet little town doesn't seem so quiet, and fingers are pointing in all directions.  Mickey Pritchett was a low life who took advantage of people, but he was still part of Wade's team and his death was just part of the puzzle - lots of people hated or disliked Mickey but did anything of them loath him enough to kill him?  To make matters worse there is a thief working their way through Bar Harbour who is helping themselves to whatever takes their fancy, and while crime reporter Bruce Linney is pretty sure he has the culprit in his sights, things are not that always that simple.  With all that is going on it is not surprising that Hayley feels a little frazzled - she is juggling two jobs, her daughter has an older boyfriend, her best friend is keeping secrets, and her boyfriend Lex is away - but she still manages to get herself caught up in the middle of not one but two mysteries.  Can Hayley solve the mysteries before it is too late?

Death of a country fried redneck is a rollicking adventure full of charm, warmth, and just enough family mayhem to keep the story grounded and believable.  Hayley is the perfect heroine because she is not the perfect heroine - she doesn't have supermodel good looks, she isn't skilled in martial arts, and her hectic family life barely leaves enough time for her to draw breath let alone spend hours poring over clues and solving the mystery.  One of the most charming aspects of Hayley and her world is just how real it is - you can't help but connect with Hayley because she is so real, someone you could see living down the road from you.  Her world is populated with people who are just as believable, right down to the challenges of balancing a large family, or learning a new language and getting the words a little tangled up some times.

I wasn't sure if I was going to keep reading the Hayley mysteries, I have a lot of other books to read and other series I am hooked on, but I couldn't resist dipping back into her world - and I am glad I did!  The first book in a series can sometimes be a fluke, a cute concept that appeals because it is new and fresh, but flails in later books because the concept becomes same-old-same-old.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the new adventures of Hayley were as good as the previous adventure of Hayley, and that while she got into familiar feeling scrapes and close calls, they weren't exactly the same as what happened in the first book. 

Lee Hollis is the pen name for siblings Rick Copp and Holly Simason and it is clear they have a really good writing chemistry and I look forward to reading more books in the Hayley mysteries series - because if they are all even half as good as book one and book two then we are all in for a treat.

 If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Classified as murder by Miranda James

Classified as murder is the second book in the Cat in the stacks mysteries and while it can be read as a stand alone book I would recommend that you read Murder past due first as this review may contain some ***SPOILERS*** about Charlie and Diesel.

The people of Athena, Mississippi are used to seeing Charlie and his cat Diesel together - they go to the local café together, Diesel goes to work with Charlie at the local college  and Diesel is also a regular fixture at the public library where Charlie volunteers.  When he is approached at the library by James Delacorte Charlie has no idea that he is about to become a player in a complex family drama unfolding in the family home.  Living with family is not always easy, especially when it is your extended family and people expect to be able to enjoy a certain lifestyle.  Mr Delacorte certainly has a strange family, and his first meeting with them is almost enough to send him running from the job Mr Delacorte has offered to him - but it is a job that is simply too good to miss.

Mr Delacorte has a rare book collection that makes Charlie positively drool with excitement  especially when he learns that Mr Delacorte would like his help to check the contents of the collection.  Checking the contents means handling the items, and some of them are rare treasures indeed.  If only the reason for checking the collection was benign - Mr Delacorte has asked Charlie for help because he believes a member of his family is stealing from him.  When Mr Delacorte turns up dead shortly after Charlie begins work on the collection, Charlie and Diesel are soon drawn into another murder mystery.  To complicate matters Charlie's son Sean has come to stay, and there is a definite distance between them, one that seems almost impossible to bridge.  With a murder mystery to solve and relationship to mend, Charlie and Diesel are in for an interesting time.

I loved the first book featuring Charlie and his cat Diesel and I was eager to read the second book in the series to see if the momentum and humour from the first book made another appearance - and I was not disappointed.  I do not know quite what it is about Charlie and Diesel that appeals so much - yes I am a librarian and have a cat or two at home that are very Diesel like - but that doesn't explain why my mother also enjoys the series so much.  It could be that Charlie is so down to Earth and good natured, that he genuinely wants to help but seems to end up in a little bit of a pickle, or it could be that he is so "human" and believable.  The relationship between Charlie and Diesel is also part of the charm, they have a warm and close relationship that is so easy to picture - and the reactions of people to his Maine coon size is also hysterically familiar, my girl gained a lot of attention and she was no where near the size of a boy like Diesel.  

Whatever the "it" factor is with this series, the first two books in the series have it in droves and I am eagerly waiting to get hold of book three in the series so I can see what happens next.  The added dimension of Charlie's relationship with Sean makes this book surprisingly deep and appeals across a variety of levels - you can connect with the mystery, with the family drama, or with the humour - or all of the above.  The twist at the end is just fabulous and was laugh out loud funny for myself and my mother - she got to read the book first this time and kept asking me if I was finished so she could share some of her favourite moments.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, May 12, 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth

In a future world nearly destroyed by war, the solution was to divide people into Factions - each Faction bringing together people into like minded groups to complete the necessary tasks of a functioning society.  The Erudite are the thinkers who provide higher thinking and technology, they are balanced by the selfless acts of service provided by the Abnegation, they are all protected by the Dauntless - and so on.  The only people outside the system are the Factionless who live in squalor and depend on charity.  In this society you choose your Faction once you are sixteen and have completed your test - a life changing decision for any teenager to make, and one that will have consequences for years to come.

It is during the testing that Beatrice discovers a new word - Divergent.  Beatrice is Divergent, she has no clear preference for any of the Factions during her test, and that means she has to make the final decision herself - she can choose to stay in Abnegation, or she can choose another Faction completely   This is the chance to join the ranks of the Dauntless, but choosing Dauntless and being accepted by them is two completely different things.  While Beatrice can choose to shake off her past and choose a new identity, being "Tris" doesn't stop the taunting and sneers from the other initiates or the Dauntless.  As she struggles to prove herself, Tris discovers that not everything is as it seems, that there is something lurking beneath the surface.  Even if Tris can prove herself worthy of being Dauntless, there is still the niggling little worry that she might be discovered by those who want to make sure no one who is Divergent lives to see another day.

I picked up Divergent because it is such a huge hit at the moment and I wanted to see if the book lived up to the hype - or if like Twilight it left me feeling cheated.  Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed Divergent and the world Veronica Roth has created - although that comes with the caveat of wishing that the book had not been quite so slow, especially in the beginning.  Tris and her world is well thought out and there is plenty here to like - the characters and world built around Tris are believable and compelling, it is easy to envision a future like this.  Divergent does suffer somewhat from being slower paced than what I would normally like, there is a lot of world building and foundation laying for the rest of the trilogy and while this makes the book a richer reading experience it does make me want to say "hurry up" sometimes as it seems like the really obvious is being stated.

Divergent has been receiving a lot of comparisons to the Hunger games - but this mainly appears to be because they are both dystopian novels.  The Hunger games is somewhat bleaker in a lot of ways, especially because of the world view of Katniss.  Tris is somewhat more optimistic than Katniss (at least to begin with) and you can't help but feel that things are kind of okay for Tris and her world - until the shiny rubs off and you realise that something is wrong, that there is a dark secret hiding in plain sight.  There is bound to be a lot of similarities between series when they are of a certain type, and while Divergent will appeal to most Hunger games fans, Roth has her own voice and her own vision of the future.  I look forward to reading the next book in the series to see what happens next now that some of the secrets have been stripped away and at least one of the "bad guys" has revealed themselves.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Perfect cover by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Cheerleaders are popular, athletic, made up to perfection, and complete airheads - at least that's the stereotype.  Sophomore Toby Klein has very little time for the popular Varsity squad at Bayport High, she is happy to cruise along at school burying her nose in her hacking and rescuing her younger brother Noah from the jock boyfriends of the girls he chats up on a regular basis (pretty much a full time job in its own).  She has never shown any interest in school spirit or being part of the popular crowd, so it is a huge surprise to find the little note in her locker.  At first she thinks it is a simple practical joke, but as the "joke" goes further she quickly realises that there is more to the Varsity squad than meets the eye.
The girls on the squad don't just represent the school and lead the charge for school spirit - they are also The Squad (note the capital letters) an elite squad of government operatives who go places where they will not be suspected.  Wait, sounds familiar right?  Teen operatives working under the adult radar to collect evidence, evade the bad guys, and save the day - but you have never seen teen operatives like these before.  In a matter of days Toby is preened and prepped to become part of The Squad - both on the cheerleading pyramid and on the streets of Bayport tracking down some missing intelligence and trying to infiltrate the "lair" of the bad guys.  It is an interesting couple of days, and Toby is slowly coming to realise that cheerleaders are not just blonde airheads who shake their pom poms - they are also some very slick operators who could show the adults a thing or two!
I always enjoy reading authors who are able to work across several genre, especially if they work across those different genre well - and Jennifer Lynn Barnes has made a very slick and polished move with the first book in The Squad series.  Toby is a lovable anti-hero who seems to spend most of the first part of the book in shocked disbelief about what is lurking in the halls of Bayport High, and the fact that the cheerleaders are not the airheads she thought they were.  It is a culture shock, especially when she discovers the secret skills hidden under each perfect hairdo and the perfect make up.  There are the expected clichés but they are palatable and lead to some seriously laugh out loud moments for Toby and the situations around her - they are not overworked clichés and may be less cliché for younger readers who have not read quite as widely as I do.
The teen spy/agent genre is well and truly alive thanks to ground-breaking characters like Alex Rider and James Adams - so it is a challenge to create a new angle and Barnes has done a very good job of carving out her own little niche in this world.  Her characters are well developed, although at times I had a little trouble keeping some of the characters that were more in the background straight - but I have to confess that was more me than the book I think (read here that I was a little distracted while reading parts of the book).  I look forward to reading the second book in the series to see what happens next for Toby and the team - especially because it feels as though there is a little undercurrent happening with the story that may lead to something interesting....
 If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, May 3, 2014

NYPD Red 2 by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

NYPD Red 2 is the sequel to NYPD Red so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in the first book.  If you like to read series in order then read NYPD Red before you read anymore of this review.

NYPD Red is the elite task force that everyone wants to join, their mandate is to serve and protect the rich and famous - something Detectives Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald do very well.  At least, they had been doing very well, for the past week or so Kylie MacDonald has been off her game - not a good look when a new serial killer is making their presence known.  The first victims of the Hazmat Killer may have been petty criminals, but the fourth victim is from the top of the social food chain which dumps the case squarely in the laps of Jordan and MacDonald.  Dragged into the case by the Mayor (who is desperate for reelection) Jordan and MacDonald are on a tight time frame with very little to go on.

As Jordan and MacDonald Start to unravel the mystery that is the Hazmat Killer, they are also trying to unravel their personal lives as well.  After years of holding the torch of unrequited love Kylie Zach has finally found some happiness with a Cheryl - but he can't help but feel a little off balance because someone else seems to be elbowing in on their relationship.  Kylie has her own problems, her husband has fallen off the drug-free wagon and his rapid spiral into addiction is putting both their futures at risk.  Working at breakneck speed is never easy, especially when you don't know who the bad guys are and where they will strike next - make the wrong choice and the only thing that might be broken is your career.

NYPD Red 2 is something of a change from the usual Patterson - the chapters are longer and more densely written, and there is a lot more of the first person narrative - but it is still a first class read.  There are two distinct story strands blended together throughout the novel, the expected story about the Hazmat Killer and Zach and Kylie's race against the clock, but there is also the story about two young guys who made a decision to protect themselves and their neighbourhood and the resulting promise of reprisals from the victims mobbed up family.  The characters and the action work together seamlessly to drive the novel forward, with neither action or character development sacrificed to push the story forward.  I have really enjoyed the slightly more aggressive and intense style of writing that has gone into this series and hope that future novels in the series can create the same kind of atmosphere. 

There is very little time to stop and think about what is happening in this story, the twists and turns that make Patterson novels so addictive are here in spades - as is some very nice little personal dramas that make the characters more human.  I love the city of New York which seems to become a stronger "character" with each Patterson novel, and the novels do make New York seem a little like forbidden fruit that will bite back if you try and take more than your share of the pie. 

If you like this book then try:
  • Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • Kiss the girls by James Patterson
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • The survivors club by Lisa Gardner
  • Kill me if you can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp
  • Postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • Swimsuit by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • The rabbit factory by Marshall Karp
  • Level 26: Dark prophecy by Anthony E. Zuiker & Duane Swierczynski

Reviewed by Brilla