Friday, December 30, 2016

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Tally is looking forward to her sixteenth birthday - the day when she will receive the operation and change from one of the Uglies into one of the Pretties.  It feels like she has been waiting forever, and with her friend Peris living in New Pretty Town she is feeling lonely - which leads to one of the biggest adventures she has had, and leads to Shay.  Shay is also about to turn sixteen, and she and Tally strike up a fast friendship.  Together they are an unstoppable force, and come up with the most bubbly escapades. 

As the time for the operation approaches things change and Shay seems withdrawn, focused on the rusty ruins beyond the city limits.  Shay seems to actively avoid mention of the operation, refusing to play the game of planning her perfect new body and face, looking to the world beyond what they know.  When Shay runs away just days before the operation Tally is pulled into the most bogus adventure of her life because she knew Shay and everyone assumes she knew what Shay was about to do.  Tally is about to discover some of the biggest secrets of her city, and once she knows them it will change her life forever.

I read Uglies when it was first released over ten years ago, and as I had the luxury of some time off around the public holidays I decided to pick the series up and read it from start to finish.  It says something about the enduring nature of the series that it doesn't feel like it has dated over the past decade, and if anything it feels more relevant today than it did back then.  Tally is an interesting and engaging character, as are Shay and the others, and the story is more believable because we make the most important discoveries through their eyes. 

There are so many things that can be said about Uglies, but most of them would be spoilers that ruin the surprises within the story.  While this is a science fiction series, there are themes that appear that are relevant to today - the environment, social control, friendship, loyalty, and self discovery.  This is one of the original dystopian series, and Westerfeld created a world that seems perfect on the surface until you discover the rotten core - and Tally Youngblood is one of the archetype characters that are echoed through other dystopian novels.

If you like this book then try:
  • Renegade by J.A. Souders
  • The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • XVI by Julia Karr
  • The testing by Joelle Charbonneau
  • Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
  • Proxy by Alex London
  • Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
  • In the after by Demitria Lunetta
  • ACID by Emma Pass
  • Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch
  • Reboot by Amy Tintera
  • The scorpion rules by Erin Bow
  • The hunt by Andrew Fukuda
  • Variant by Robison Wells
  • The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • Sister assassin by Kiersten White

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dead secret by Ava McCarthy

Jodie Garrett has one thing on her mind - she is going to kill her husband and then herself.  She's not a deranged killer though, she is a mother seeking revenge against the man who killed their daughter Abby.  What seemed like a perfect marriage turned out to be anything but, and Jodie has nothing left to live for now that her little girl is gone.  The man who made her feel like she had finally found her place and a family turned out to be a manipulative and controlling man who liked to twist things to make Jodie feel off balance and uncertain.  Killing their daughter was the final act of a man who was determined to control the situation when Jodie decided to walk away.

Things don't go to plan though, and Jodie finds herself incarcerated for the murder of her husband - her own words used to convict her.  Inside life has settled into a routine, a routine that is destroyed when a reporter asks to see Jodie and reveals a mind blowing surprise - it is possible that her husband is still alive.  Reporter Matt Novak has some rather damning evidence against her husband, but without her help he is only seeing part of the picture.  Jodie is going to have to risk it all to find out the truth about her beloved husband - and she is about to discover that some secrets are better left dead and buried.

In many ways Dead secret reminds me of the movie Double jeopardy with Ashley Judd - a wife imprisoned for the murder of her husband who discovers that he may not be dead after all.  The early similarities and niggles to remember the plot of the movie almost put me off, but I am extremely glad that I shook it off and read the book all the way through (in one day to find out what happened!) because it is a book with lots of twists and turns as the full story is slowly revealed.  I am not going to include any spoilers here as the story unfolding is one of the best parts of the story, but there are some real shocks throughout the story and the subtle clues about what is really happening build towards an ending that you might (or might not) figure out before the big reveal at the end of the story.

A thoroughly entertaining and absorbing story with characters that leap off the page and make you care about what happens to them.  Jodie is at times filled with strength and determination, and at other times crippled by doubts and confusion - making this a realistic and plausible story.  Can you guess what is happening before the end?

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Look past by Eric Devine

Avery is devastated when his friend Mary Mathison first goes missing, and then is found dead in the woods, and can't help but want to be involved with the case.  His snooping gets him in trouble with his Uncle Tom who is a police officer involved in the case, and causes problems for his friend Charlie and his girlfriend Beth, but he can't help getting involved with the case - especially when he starts receiving threats by text that he will be next. 

As a transgender teen transitioning from female to male Avery already faces challenges everyday, but when he is told to repent and stop sinning he faces an impossible choice.  He can pretend that his identity doesn't matter, pretend to be the perfect girl he used to appear to be - or he can stay strong and fight against the person who has threatened his life and the lives of those around him.  It is an impossible choice, and as the killer leaves more taunting clues and threats Avery has to decide what truth is more important and if being right is the most important thing.

One of the things that attracted me to read Look past was the fact that the book was about someone who was transgender and transitioning as a teenager - but most of the time I forgot that Avery was transgender at all.  That may seem strange when Avery being transgender, and the challenges he has faced are so central to the story and the events that unfold in the story, but the most important part of the story to me was the well written and well thought out plot and what happens. 

In many ways Avery is a completely normal teenager facing the challenges of discovering a sense of self and wanting other people to see him for who he is - something that teenagers all over the world experience to varying degrees depending on where they live and what their society is like.  At times the inner turmoil Avery was facing was like a living thing, and I know that reading this as an adult definitely added a different perspective - being different is hard for any teen, and in such a small town with highly religious/conservative people is something that leaps off the page on more than one occasion.  Without downplaying the challenges faced by transgender teens, this is a story of struggling to find yourself that any teen can relate too.

Too often I have given up on reading books with transgender teens and children, not because I don't want to read their stories, but rather because the author has chosen to make a soap box on the backs of young people who don't deserve to have their voices turned into a cliché to make money for an author who wants to jump on the latest publishing trend.  I found Avery to be a very believable character and I developed a real feeling of empathy very early on in the story - you can't help but feel a connection to this character and his world.  Hopefully more authors exploring this emerging publishing trend will take the time to craft a world where their characters just happen to be transgender - rather than building a whole story around a person being transgender. 

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, December 23, 2016

I've got you under my skin by Mary Higgins Clark

Five years ago Laurie Moran lost her husband when he was shot to death in front of their young son Timmy.  It was a brutal act of controlled violence, made all the more chilling by the killers promise that he was going to kill Laurie next and then Timmy.  In the years since the murder Laurie has tried to live as normal a life as possible, supported by her father her keeps a protective eye on both Laurie and Timmy.  All that careful guarding and protecting is about to be tested to the limits because the killer has Laurie is back on her trail and determined to kill her - and her latest television pilot could be the perfect time to strike.  

Laurie has pitched the idea for a reality television series that examines true crime cold cases - a gamble for Laurie, but also for her boss as her last two series have failed to fire.  The case that sells the pilot idea is the murder of Betsy Powell, who dies twenty years ago on the night of a grand gala celebrating the graduation of Betsy's daughter and her three friends.  The studio is willing to put up the money to pay the estranged step daughter and her friends - but her widower surprises Laurie by offering to top up the amount to make the cash incentive as attractive as possible.  Assembling everyone at the scene of the murder brings out some surprising revelations, and uncovers some rather disturbing secrets.  It seems as though the secrets buried for two decades are bubbling beneath the surface, but will they be exposed before the blue eyes killer keeps his word?

I have been reading new authors over the past few days, and one that I have never tried before is Mary Higgins Clark.  I have to confess that I picked up the first book in this series because the rest of the series is co-authored with Alafair Burke, someone I have read and enjoyed before, and I was not disappointed at all by this solo outing with Mary Higgins Clark. I tend to like books that are a little sparsely written, where the attention is on the characters and the action rather than bogging you down with too much unwanted drama and baggage, and I've got you under my skin fitted the bill perfectly.  It took a chapter or two to get used to moving from character to character, but that focus on one person at a time made me pay attention and made it just that little bit harder to figure out what was important and guess who the killer really was.

I've got you under my skin has a lot in common with crime television series, and old school detective novels and I found myself glued to the story until the very satisfying end.  This is the first book in a series, which might have made the story predictable but it really does keep you guessing about what is coming next.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and my mother also read it and thoroughly enjoyed - now we just have to figure out who gets to read book two in the series first!  

 If you like this book then try:
  • City of fear by Alafair Burke
  • Now you see her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Behind closed doors by B.A. Paris
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeffry P. Lindsay
  • One step too far by Tina Seskis
  • The postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • Normal by Graeme Cameron
  • The survivors club by Lisa Gardner
  • Private Oz by James Patterson and Michael White
  • Look behind you by Sibel Hodge
  • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarratano
  • Kill switch by Neal Baer & Jonathan Greene
  • The edge of normal by Carla Norton
  • The slaughter man by Tony Parsons
  • City of the lost by Kelley Armstrong

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, December 19, 2016

Girl unbroken by Regina Calcaterra and Rosie Maloney

The full title of this book is Girl unbroken: A sister's harrowing story of survival from the streets of Long Island to the farms of Idaho.  This is the story that was glimpsed and hinted at in Etched in sand, but for the first time we get the full story of what life was like for the little girl that was swept away from the close knit family of sisters who cared for her and protected her into the "tender loving care" of her mother.

When her older sister Regina tells the authorities about the abuse they have all suffered at the hands of their mother Cookie, Rosie and her brother Norman are sent to a foster home where they are supposed to be safe from harm at the hands of their mother or anyone else.  They were supposed to be safe, but the reality was that their foster mother was as cruel in her own way as Cookie was, and in the foster home Norm and Rosie don't have their older sisters to protect them.  When their mother spirits them away from the foster home it seems like a blessing, but they soon realise that being with their mother is just as bad if not worse than the foster home.

As the years pass Rosie and Norm live in the shadow of their mother as she once again pulls into places as "hurricane Cookie" and makes a life for herself - often at the expense of other people and her children.  It is not an easy life, but at least they have each other to lean on when Cookie is being Cookie.  A move to the farms of Idaho is like moving to another planet,  and small town Idaho is completely different to any life they have known before.  In a small town where everyone knows each other and each others business it is both embarrassing and painful to watch Cookie wreak havoc - and when people warn her about her new stepfather, Rosie has no idea of the ordeal that she is headed for.

Girl unbroken was a fascinating and heartbreaking read, and on more than one occasion I felt like a voyeur looking into her life because Rosie is so open and honest about what happened to her when she was a child.  It is mind boggling that anyone could treat a child like Rosie and Norm were treated, and it makes my skin crawl to think of all the people that came into her life that just walked through the motions or just plain didn't believe her - especially the people in a position of trust and with a responsibility of care.  

The worst part, the absolutely worst part, is that these stories are still happening today.  There are still social workers that walk through the motions and don't seem to care at all about the children they are supposed to protect - I have seen it first hand here in New Zealand.  It is also mind boggling to think that if they had been abused by their father that they probably would have been whisked away to safety, but that somehow people can't seem to grasp that women can be just as, if not more, abusive as men. 

This is a harrowing and haunting read, but I would highly recommend it to anyone who works with children and/or families.  Through Rosie's eyes and experiences you can pick up some of the warning signs to watch for, and some of the basic things to remember when asking children if they are okay - the first and most obvious being never ask a child how they are doing in a front of a parent or close caregiver if you think they are being abused!  Thank you to Rosie and Regina both for sharing their stories, and I hope that young people read their stories and realise that their is a future beyond the abuse and neglect.

As with Etched in sand, 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

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What was mine by Helen Klein Ross

This book has been published under two different titles - in the United States it was published as What was mine, and in the United Kingdom it was published as Someone else's child.  As I read the American edition I have published the review under that title.

Lucy Wakefield never intended to kidnap a baby, it was moment of concern that lead to the unthinkable as she walked away with someone else's baby.  That simple act was born out of desperation for a child of her own that was never meant to be, and mother's moment of carelessness.   For years Lucy raises the baby as her own, a few carefully calculated acts hiding the fact that baby Mia didn't come into her life in the legal way.

Told mainly through the voices of Lucy, Mia, and Mia's birth mother Marilyn it is a deeply personal and heart wrenching story of loss, discovery, and the many different faces of loss and grief.  Other voices join the narrative at different times, showing a different perspective on the story, adding to the impressions and memories of Lucy and Mia.  This is an emotional read, and breaking the story up into chunks of time with different voices was actually a relief - especially at particularly emotional times for the main characters. 

I was drawn to reading the story after it passed through my hands at the library, the simple cover shows a child's swing and the words What was mine just seemed so heartbreakingly sad.  When I read the blurb I almost put it down again, but decided to read the first page to see if I might be interested - ended up reading the first chapter and promptly ordering a copy for me to read.  It took me a few days to read because it is an emotional powder keg at times, but it was also a very rewarding read in the end - especially with the way the author finished the story.  This is a character driven story and you can't help but connect to the emotions of the characters, and while Lucy should be reviled for kidnapping a child I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, December 9, 2016

The black key by Amy Ewing

The black key is the final book in the Jewel trilogy so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first two books in the series.  This series really needs to be read in order so make sure you read The Jewel and The white rose first.

Violet has loved and lost, and along with her fellow former surrogates she is preparing for a war against the royals who have controlled their lives for so long.  She has learned to control the elements as her Paladin powers grow, and visiting the holding facilities lets Violet and her friends teach the next generation of surrogates about who they really are and what they can accomplish.  It is a race against time though, because Violet may have escaped from the royals that control the Jewel, but they have taken her sister Hazel in her place.  All their careful plans might unravel if Violet returns to the Jewel early, but Violet will do anything to protect her family and the ones she loves.

Disguising herself, Violet returns to the Jewel and the home that she fled only months before.  This time she is a servant rather than a surrogate, and that invisibility helps her move through the Jewel with surprising ease - but it also means she is almost as powerless as a surrogate.  Violet hoped to find her sister and bring her home, but instead she finds her sister at the centre of a dangerous and deadly plot where Hazel is even more of a pawn than Violet was herself.  Change is coming to the Jewel -  but will it be at the hands of Violet and her fellow Paladin, or at the hands of the royals who seem so eager to self destruct?

The black key is the final book in the Jewel trilogy and leads to reader to a satisfying conclusion that provides closure for Violet and her world.  This is a dystopian series that was suitable for younger teens, a rare find in a publishing trend that has seen some authors push the boundaries of what younger teens can deal with - great for the older teens who are often neglected by publishers, but it put some great series out of reach of younger teens.  

The world of the Jewel is both opulent and rotten, a glittering facade hiding the rotten underbelly that sees thousands of people oppressed for the benefit of the few.  Students of history would pick up subtle echoes of our own world history here, where royalty have lived decadent lives while the masses struggle and starve.  I have enjoyed visiting Violet and her world and hope that Ewing continues to explore more of this genre as she has the ability to create richly imagined and complex worlds that are easily accessible to her audience.  A great addition to the dystopia genre that deserves to be discovered - and would be a real treat read back to back so you don't have to wait for the next book in the series like I did!
If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The killing kind by Chris Holm

Michael Hendricks has a unique set of skills gained through years of service in the military, skills that are easily transferred to the world of professional hit men.  Hendricks doesn't kill at random or indiscriminately, he has a very niche market for his hits - he only kills other hit men.  He is a ghost that has taken out some pretty nasty killers over the years, but his skill and success rate has brought him attention that he could really do without.  When you are working as a hit man the perfect cover is when the world thinks you are already dead.

Hendricks has come to the attention of a Special Agent Charlotte Thompson of the FBI, who has spent years hunting for her 'ghost' - a killer that no one believed existed, at first anyway.  With another hit man dead, other Agents are starting to take her seriously.  On the other side of the world another kind of hunter is hot on the trail of Hendricks, a hit man employed to take out the hit man who has cut a devastating swath of destruction through the criminal community.  It is a race against time as Agent Thompson and the hit man try and track Hendricks down - one to catch him and one to kill him.

I picked up The killing kind after seeing it on a recommended book list, and while I normally don't stray too far into the thriller genre this was a book that had me hooked from the start.  One of the biggest hooks for me was the way the story jumped straight in, and the way that Chris Holm has crafted the character of Michael Hendricks.  Hendricks is damaged but not completely broken - he seems to be a solid representation of soldiers who have returned from armed conflict overseas.  There are echoes of real veterans in his character, and some of the other characters in his world.

Without spoiling the little twists and turns that make up this story it is believable and a rather enjoyable game of cat and mouse - or maybe that should be cats and mouse because Hendricks is hiding from not one, but two hunters.  It is a little unpolished in some places, but was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Bound by blood and sand by Becky Allen

Jae is one of the Closest, a caste of people made slaves by the actions of their ancestors, and the Curse that ensures their obedience.  She and the rest of the Closest work for the Highest, the ruling caste that controls their world, including the water that flows from the Well.  The Well is the source of all water, it provides for all the people who live and once made the world a green and thriving place.  Recently though, the water has not been as plentiful and a severe drought has turned the world into a desert where everything struggles to thrive - including the people.  Lady Shirrad is a young ruler, and she rules with the arrogance and dominance of the other Highest, and she is determined to make a good impression about her estate at any cost.

When Lord Elan, a member of the ruling family, visits the estate it is not to save them from their fate, it is to tell them that they will have to abandon the estate so the water can be redirected to where it is needed.  For Jae it seems like a blessing in disguise, because she has discovered that she can do magic, and her magic may be able to save her people.  When her secret is discovered, Jae is forced to flee from her home in search of the mythical Well - her only companions her twin brother Tal and Elan.  It is a race against time, because if they can not reach the Well and save the estate, then everyone will die and Jae's magic will be worth nothing because she will lose everything.

In recent years there has been a trend towards writing fantasy novels for teens (and adults not too embarrassed to admit they read teen books) that are broad, sweeping, and across many books that build on an epic scale.  Bound by blood and sand is almost a throw back to a simpler time, the characters and scale reminding myself and other reviewers of Tamora Pierce style fantasy novels.  This novel is one of "enough" for me - there is enough known about the main characters to help you connect with them, you know enough about their world to understand how it works and why it works that way, you can connect to the world enough to really enjoy the story.  It may be considered a back handed compliment, but it was a real treat to connect with a world and characters where I could engage with everything but not feel overwhelmed. 

Parents, librarians and teachers will also be relieved to find a series without gratuitous sex and violence.  I love authors like Sarah J. Maas and on a personal level I really enjoy the fact that she treats her teenage audience with respect and doesn't pull any punches - but I can't in good conscience recommend her recent books to younger teens.  Allen has created a world that I could get lost in, and characters I could believe in - and even better, a book I can recommend to younger teens with protective parents. 

There are some interesting themes explored her as well which could make Bound by blood and sand a suitable book for assigned reading - slavery, the environment, vows and honour, civil rights, and many more.  I really look forward to the second book in this series because although the ending is satisfying to a certain extent - there has to be more to come and I want to know what it is!

If you like this book then try:

  • The girl of fire and thorns by Rae Carson
  • Sandry's book (The magic in the weaving) by Tamora Pierce
  • Tris's book (The power in the storm) by Tamora Pierce
  • Daja's book (The fire in the forging) by Tamora Pierce
  • Briar's book (The healing in the vine) by Tamora Pierce
  • Magic steps by Tamora Pierce
  • Street magic by Tamora Pierce
  • Cold fire by Tamora Pierce
  • Shatterglass by Tamora Pierce
  • Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
  • Winter of fire by Sherryl Jordan
  • Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The halfmen of O by Maurice Gee
  • Under the mountain by Maurice Gee
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland
  • Walk on Earth a stranger by Rae Carson
  • Snow in Summer: Fairest of them all by Jane Yolen
  • The castle behind thorns by Merrie Haskell
  • Soundless by Richelle Mead
  • Crown duel by Sherwood Smith

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, November 18, 2016

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Miss Audrey Rose Wadsworth is not your average Victorian young lady, she has a fascination (and talent) for the grisly and bloody world of forensic science.  She is well placed to learn about forensics as she is apprenticed to her uncle, Doctor Jonathan Wadsworth, who has become tangled up in the case of a rather grisly murder of a woman who has been defiled in death in a most alarming way.  Audrey Rose is fascinated by the case, but not quite so fascinated with her uncles other apprentice Thomas Cresswell - who seems to think he is already an expert in the field of forensic science and investigation.  

Thomas is already at an advantage when it comes to his studies, as unlike Audrey Rose he doesn't have to worry about hiding his actions from his family.   Audrey Rose belongs to a good family, with an over protective father who wants to ensure his beloved daughter doesn't suffer the same fate as her mother - an early grave and a grieving family.  It is not until the second body, and then a third body appears that Audrey Rose, her uncle, and Thomas begin to understand that there is a serial killer at work in the streets of London - one with very particular tastes and hunting grounds.

All the clues soon point to someone in Audrey Rose's life, but surely no one she knows and loves could be the cold blooded killer that will one day be dubbed Jack the Ripper?  She will need all her intelligence and determination to solve the case, but will she discover who the killer is before it is too late?

I had seen postings for Stalking Jack the Ripper on social media and instantly fell in love with the cover and what was promised inside - and I was not disappointed in any way.  Kerri Maniscalco has created a clear strong voice for Audrey Rose, one that refuses to be bound by the conventions of her sex and time period with delightful results.  The action is fast paced and at times leaves you reeling as just when you think you might have the answer to who Jack the Ripper is the mat is ripped out from under your feet and you are left wondering what might come next.  

This book is a real treat and is one of those rare teen novels that passes easily into the realm of teen reads for adult readers.  I have to confess that when I read the author's note and found she had changed a few things I really didn't care, the setting of the novel and the atmosphere is what makes this historically accurate - the odd tweaking with names and dates doesn't take anything away from an amazing read.  Hopefully there are many more stories from Maniscalco as this was one hell of a ride.

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
  • When by Victoria Laurie
  • 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
  • Holding smoke by Elle Cosimano

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Hide and seek by M.J. Arlidge

Hide and seek is the sixth book in the DI Helen Grace thrillers series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first books in the series.  While you can read this book independently you will get the most enjoyment out of reading the series in order.

Helen Grace has well and truly fallen from grace, incarcerated in the sad and decaying Holloway prison.  Every day behind bars is torture, not only because she has been framed, but also because there are a number of women in Holloway who are there because of her actions as a police officer.  Forced to live in general population, each day is a struggle to stay safe - not only from the other inmates, but also from some of the guards.  Each day behind bars is another day closer to her trial, but she has well and truly been stitched up by a cold calculated killer who knew exactly how to get her.  

The only person who truly believes that Helen is innocent is Charlie Brooks, but she is fighting an uphill battle against a police force that is determined to believe they have their murderer.  Searching for the real killer puts huge pressure on Charlie, but she is determined to prove that Helen Grace is innocent - even if it means risking her job to do it.  The clock is ticking on the case, and there is a very real chance that Grace may never make it out of Holloway alive.  There is a killer on the loose who is stalking the women of Holloway, a killer who not only kills their victims but also desecrates the bodies in a disturbing and gruesome way.  Trapped on the inside with the killer, Helen can't help but investigate the crime - once a cop, always a cop.  But Helen Grace isn't a cop anymore, she's a prisoner with no power and no credibility - and if she keeps digging she may very well dig her own grave.

The DI Helen Grace thrillers are fast paced and hard hitting, with short and snappy chapters that keep the action moving at a breathless pace and challenge you to figure out what is happening before everything is revealed in the last few chapters.  With Helen Grace in prison for murder it seemed like it was going to be a different kind of read with Hide and seek, but the truth is that it was just like the rest of the series - tightly written, with some very clever little plot points along the way.  

This is an amazing series and while for some international readers it may be a very "British" I am not from the United Kingdom and I could follow it just fine.  Arlidge wrote for television for a number of years and you can feel that with his writing, he doesn't waste time on flowery prose or overly detailed descriptions - he lets the characters and the story keep you connected to the story.  If you like authors like James Patterson then you have to try Arlidge, and if you like Arlidge and haven't tried Patterson yet then I suggest you do.  

Now the countdown starts to March 2017 when we get to read Follow my leader - the next book in the series.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Like a river glorious by Rae Carson

Like a river glorious is book two in the Gold Seer trilogy and while you can read it as a stand alone novel I highly recommend reading book one, Walk on Earth a stranger first.  This review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first book in the series.

After all the trials and troubles on her journey to California, Leah Westfall has finally made it to the gold fields.  On the gold fields she has the chance to be anonymous, to join other treasure seekers as they try and make a life for themselves.  Leah and her companions have an advantage though, even if most of them don't know - Leah can sense the presence of gold, a very useful skill when you are trying to find land to stake your claim.  When she finally reveals her ability to her travelling companions it is a relief, but telling them will not protect her from the uncle that desperately wants her under his control.  The small community that springs to life from their claims may be small, but it is also a tight knit community where Leah finds peace and comfort.

Leah knows her Uncle Hiram is ruthless, he killed her parents and took their land after all, and she will never be truly safe from him as long as she is unmarried and living alone.  When the community suffers a tragedy it becomes clear that her uncle is even more ruthless than she thought, and when he kidnaps her she realises just how little control she really has over her own life.  As Leah tries desperately to escape from her uncle she learns more about him and the lengths he will go to to get what he wants.  With everything to lose Lead must risk everything - for her freedom, and the freedom of the people she loves.

I just adored Walk on Earth a stranger, and couldn't help but wonder how Rae Carson was going to match such an amazing read - but I shouldn't have worried because Like a river glorious was an amazing read in it's own right.  Carson has admitted that she has tweaked the facts in her historical novels, but she has taken nothing away from a unique time in history that is perfectly blended with a subtle and believable magic.  Leah continues to grow into her power, not just her gold magic, but also her strength and power as a woman living in a world where women had no real power.  Leah is smart, strong, and fiercely loyal to her friends and the friends she has taken on as family.

There is so much more I could say about this story and why I loved every minute of it, but the only way to do that is to spoil the story by revealing plot points and some of the revelations we get along the way.  I eagerly await the final book in the series because there are some seriously "oh no she didn't" moments that need to play out in the last book in the series for a satisfying ending to this trilogy.  Carson is highly recommended for her richly imagined worlds and for creating characters that grow into their strength and power.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Diplomatic immunity by Brodi Ashton

Piper Baird has one dream and one dream only - to win the Bennington scholarship and become a journalist.  Step one of that dream is winning a scholarship spot at the Chiswick Academy, step two is writing amazing articles that help her win the scholarship, leading to step three which is a place at Columbia University to study journalism.  Piper was at the top of her game at her old school, but in her new school she faces some serious competition - and not all of it is friendly or above board.  It seems like her hopes and dreams of becoming a journalist are over, until she decides to follow in the footsteps of her journalist idols and go in deep under cover to write an expose on the rich and influential students of Chiswick.  

The target of her research is Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador and all round poster boy for the rich and spoilt children with Diplomatic Immunity (the DIs).  Rafael seems an easy target for Piper's plan and she has no problem sneaking around and putting his life under the microscope.  But slowly Piper comes to realise that Rafael is not what he appears to be, that there is more to his story than Diplomatic Immunity and throwing money around.  When her article is finally finished will Piper be able to publish the scathing expose on everything that is wrong with Cheswick Academy?

I really enjoyed reading Diplomatic immunity - it is well written with strong characters and a plot that makes sense.  Piper starts off as a big fish in a little pond which means she is self assured and confident, and that soon slips when she becomes a little fish in a big pond.  Her interactions with Rafael are endearing and entertaining, and you can't help but like both of them as the story progresses.  Both of the main characters start out somewhat two dimensional and stereotyped, but as you move forward with their story you get to see more of what makes them tick and I didn't want to put the book down because I wanted to see what was coming next!  

There are moments when the story seems quite predictable, but Ashton keeps the story real and the relationships real too.  I was intrigued by their world, and loved the way that Ashton treated her characters on the autism spectrum with such respect and dignity - rather than as cardboard cut outs thrown in for a plot point.  An all round good read that deserves to be discovered because there is an awful lot to like and nothing to dislike.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Reckless Creed by Alex Kava

Reckless Creed is the third book in the Ryder Creed series, and while it can be read as a stand alone novel I highly recommend reading the series in order starting with Breaking Creed and Silent Creed otherwise this review contains **SPOILERS***.

Ryder Creed has built up a successful business over the years, taking in the dogs no one else wants and training them to be scent dogs to help law enforcement and search and rescue.  More recently he has branched out to help people with medical conditions, training dogs to help people with epilepsy and diabetes.  It seems as though there is no limit to what his dogs are capable off, especially his little dynamo Grace.  K9 CrimeScents is a successful business, and Creed is always pushing the boundaries to see what his dogs are capable of - a blessing and a curse.

In Chicago, FBI Agent Maggie O'Dell has been called in to investigate an apparent suicide in a hotel - the suicide of a person who was deathly ill.  To her trained eye it appears that something isn't quite right, but everyone else is convinced it was a suicide.  At the same time Creed and Grace are involved in a search and rescue in Florida where a young woman appears to have loaded her pockets with rocks and waded into the water to die.  The two cases seem unconnected, but Creed and O'Dell are about to be thrown together by yet another case as they race against time to stop a mad scientist from unleashing a virus on the unsuspecting people of America.

I make no secret of the fact that I love the Ryder Creed series, and I have to confess that part of that reason is the dogs and the way their multiple skills have been blended realistically into the story.  The truth is that Ryder Creed would be nothing without his dogs, and that each dog brings it's own unique aspect to the story - especially little Grace whop reminds me a great deal of my mothers little dog.

One of the scariest things about this book is that it is likely to happen at some point somewhere in the world - there are already so many stories throughout history of man playing god with science and creating weapons and diseases to be used as weapons.  There are moments when my heart was in my mouth waiting to see what happens next, especially where the dogs were concerned, but also because the characters are starting to feel very real in this series.

This is a fast paced and action packed story that plays out in a very short space of time which makes it even scarier!  This series has great potential for many more novels, mainly because there are some many uses for working dogs and their noses - working dogs are amazing and deserve the exposure this series is giving them.  Now, to sit back and wait for the next book in the series....

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla