Monday, March 28, 2016

Sisters of blood and spirit by Kady Cross

Lark and her twin sister Wren are seperated by death - Lark was born alive while Wren is dead born.  Desperate to leave the world behind and join her sister, Lark slit her wrists and ended up locked in a mental hospital for her troubles.  Returning to her home town to live with their grandmother, Lark is determined to pretend to be normal - which means ignoring Wren and her antics when they are around the living - easier said than done sometimes.  Lark is determined to stay off everyone's radar and fade into the background until she graduates, but fate seems to have other plans.  

A group of students from her high school have made the fatal mistake of annoying a nasty ghost who seems determined to suck the life out of them.  Lark can see the damage that is being done, and somehow they manage to talk Lark and Wren into helping them - but this big bad ghost may be more than they can handle.  Lark and Wren are more powerful than most twins because they are on both sides of the living world, but they are still relatively young and figuring out what they can do.  It doesn't help that Lark keeps having visions of Wren where she is dark and dangerous.  It is a race against time to try and save their new friends and Lark and Wren are determined to win the battle - even if it means putting themselves in harms way.

I'm not usually one for reading ghost stories or horror novels, but I was rather forcefully drawn into the world of Lark and Wren.  There is some very clever mythology here that makes the world totally believable - and more than a little bit creepy.  With ghost stories it can be cliched and boring, but Cross has taken the time to create a mythology where the ghosts are more than just a repeating echo of what they were - they are malevolent, they are protective, and they are individuals.  Lark may be the twin that is "alive" but Wren is not her shadow, she has her own personality, strengths and weaknesses.  The cast of characters built around the twins is also interesting and engaging, having strengths and weaknesses of their own.  

I read the book as an eBook so I was reading it around a tree book or two which meant the story was a little broken up as I was reading it - which probably explains why at times I struggled to remember which twin was which (they are both named after birds after all).  This is a book that deserves to be read in a sitting if you can, and I really enjoyed settling down to read the second half in one sitting because I didn't want to put my phone down as the action ramped up.  If you enjoyed reading Anna dressed in blood and Asylum then I highly recommend reading Sisters of blood and spirit.  Now all I have to do is wait for the library to get the sequel as an eBook or tree book so I can see what happens next for Lark and Wren because they are only just beginning to learn what they are capable of.  

If you like this book then try:
  • Anna dressed in blood by Kendare Blake
  • The unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
  • Thyla by Kate Gordon
  • The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • Daughter of smoke and bone by Laini Taylor
  • Thirteen days to midnight by Patrick Carman
  • Burn bright by Marianne de Pierres
  • Something strange and deadly by Susan Dennard
  • Asylum by Madeleine Roux
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Rot and ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Reviewed by Brilla

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Lochan Whitely and his sister Maya are the corner stones of their family.  Their mother is a selfish woman who resents her children and would rather spend time and money on herself than supporting and caring for Lochan, Maya and her other three children.  It is Lochan and Maya who make sure the children are ready for school each morning, collected from school, have dinner, do their homework, and go to bed.  Their mother pretends to be interested, but she would rather spend time getting drunk and partying with her latest boyfriend than looking after her family.  Their father is no better, having abandoned them years before for a new wife and family in Australia.  

The biggest fear for Lochan and Maya is that social services will learn about their mothers neglect and seperate the family - they have strategies in place to protect the younger children and make sure no one finds out what is really happening at home.  When their mother starts spending more time with her boyfriend and less time at home, it falls to Lochan and Maya to care for their siblings as surrogate parents.  It should come as no surprise that they start to grow closer to each other, that they discover they have feelings for each other.  Society may say that a relationship between siblings is wrong, but can what they are feeling really be that wrong?  As they struggle to look after their siblings, their relationship changes and grows becoming more - and closer to crossing the line into completely taboo.  

Forbidden is one of the most powerful, and heartbreaking, novels I have ever read.  The doomed relationship between Lochan and Maya is doomed from the start, yet as each page turns you can see the forces that seem to conspire to drive them to each other.  Their mother is a selfish and abusive mother who abandons her children to take care of her own pleasures - a profound and long lasting neglect that forces Lochan and Maya to seek support and comfort in each other.  Lochan also faces intense forces from mental illness - anxiety is clearly stated, but there are other more subtle signs beneath the surface too.  With the climax of the story comes undercurrents of emotions from the rest of the family - and to be honest I went from loathing the mother to outright hating her.

This is a confronting and emotional book to read, Maya and Lochan are carefully crafted characters that come fully to life - it was impossible not to connect with them.  Through their alternating points of view this story comes to heartbreaking life, each painful moment, each moment of forbidden joy, each moment of anguish as they fight against the emotions that continue to grow despite the social pressures they feel.  The topic is enough to put some readers off, the developing relationship and ending make me state very clearly that this novel is best read by older teens (16 plus) who are able to understand some of the issues.  

This is not a pretty read, it is messy and emotional, and it breaks your heart - which might just have been the authors point.  Highly recommended read, though it does come with the caveat that it should be read by older teens or teens with a good support network who can talk about the issues raised in the novel.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Little boy blue by M.J. Arlidge

Little boy blue is the fifth 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.

DI Helen Grace has a reputation for solving crimes, so it is no surprise that she is called to the scene of a murder in the The Torture Rooms - one of the most notorious BDSM clubs on the local scene.  The surprise comes when she realises who the victim is - her former dominator Jake Elder.  His death is like a sucker punch, catching Helen by surprise, and she quickly makes the risky decision to not tell her superiors about her connection to the victim - the last thing she wants is to be taken off the case.  The murder is meticulously planned and it appears that the murderer wanted Jake to know death was coming, which makes the death both cruel and unusual.

When a second body is found Helen finds the walls she has built around her two worlds slowly closing in on her - someone seems to know a lot about her and they are attacking people she knows.  Helen has been trying to make better choices, staying away from professional dominators as much as possible - turning to running and too many cigarettes rather than seeking pain - but someone knows her secrets and seems determined to expose them.  When push comes to shove who can Helen really trust, especially when her carefully structured world starts to show cracks - at home and at work.  Her team, which has always been so strong is starting to show cracks, and once her history is out they will never look at her the same way again.  Someone seems to be taunting Helen, but how far will they go?

The DI Helen Grace series have all been extremely addictive and fast paced reads that keeps you hooked from the first page - and Little boy blue is no exception.  Over the past few novels we have gotten into Helen's world, including the lives of the people around her and that really comes into play in the fifth book in the series.  Some of the characters act very predictably in the book (no spoilers) which is reassuring in a novel where you have to wonder who is targeting the people in Helen's life and why.  This was a really exciting addition to the series, and yet another book that was difficult to review without spoilers or giving too much away!

Little boy blue is one of the stronger books in the series, and the ending can only be described as O.M.G!  I can't believe we have to wait until September for Hide and seek so we can see what happens next for Helen and her team.  A most excellent addition to the series, and it sets the bar awfully high for more books in the series.  

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Being Magdalene by Fleur Beale

Being Magdalene is the sequel to I am not Esther and I am Rebecca so there are some ***SPOILERS*** about what happened in the earlier books.  This is a story that makes the most sense when it is read from start to finish so I highly recommend that you start with I am not Esther and I am Rebecca before starting to read this review or Being Magdalene.

For the past few years Magdalene's family has slowly diminished as the younger members leave or are banished from their devout religious sect the Children of the Faith.  First they lost their oldest sister, then their oldest brother and cousin, and more recently one of her twin sisters fled instead of marrying their leader Elder Stephen.  It appears that their family is destined to shrink in the face of the increasingly strict and unreasonable demands of the Elders and their ever changing interpretation of the Rule that they all live by.  

Magdalene strives to be a seemly and godly girl, obeying the Rule - but she is also constantly on edge watching out for her youngest sister Zillah who is rebellious and struggles with the Rule.  It seems as though it is only Magdalene's hard work that keeps Zillah from getting in trouble with their parents, the Elders, and the other members of the Children of the Faith.  When one of the Pilgrim family once again draws the attention of the Elders it becomes clear that things are not as they should be for the Children of the Faith and the Pilgrim family is set on a course that can only lead to more heartache and struggles.  When she is pushed too far Magdalene makes a life changing decision, but her childhood has left a mark that won't be easily removed. 

I was not expecting a sequel to I am Rebecca so I was completely surprised to find a third book in the series, but having read Being Magdalene it feels like the series has finally reached a satisfying and realistic conclusion.  This series may be set in New Zealand and have a New Zealand "flavour" but there are fundamentalist religious groups and cults like the Children of the Faith all over the world, and the children who are raised in those communities loose everything if they strike out from their families and religion.  In many instances contact with the family is completely lost if people leave, the person leaving declared dead and forgotten to those left behind.  

I would think it was a little unusual for so many children from one family to leave/be banished like the Pilgrim family, but there are many parts of this story and this series that rings true.  I couldn't help but feel for Magdalene and her confusion and challenges when she leaves the Faith.  There was a strong rallying of the "cast" of the first two novels in this third installment, and all of them had their parts to play in the story of the Pilgrim family and their lives on the "outside".  This is a great series not because it is well and sensitively written (because it is), and not because it covers a somewhat taboo topic (religion is usually a no go for people), but because it is a New Zealand series that explores the complex relationship between families and families in intense situations.  There are echoes of the Brethren here and possibly Gloriavale so this is a very timely novel and series.

This is not an easy read because there are some very emotional scenes, and because there are some rather series mental health issues explored through two of the main characters.   This series wont appeal to everyone, but I highly recommend giving it a go if you want to read a series set in New Zealand that has real depth and character building.   

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The invisible by Amelia Kahaney

The invisible is the sequel to The brokenhearted so there are ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first book in the series.  This is a series where it really pays to read them in order so read The brokenhearted before you read anymore of this review. 

It starts small as these things always do - a tragic accident at a horse that seems peculiar rather than dangerous - but it was just the start.  The Invisible have arrived along with his group of supporters who seem determined to remind the ultra rich that they are still vulnerable, that they are not immune to the dark and danger of the world.  The annoyance of the videos demanding people hand money over to the poor is soon replaced with the tragedy of death and the threat of more violence and death.  The richest residents of Bedlam City are nervous and watching over their shoulders, waiting for the next threat and the next act of violence.

Anthem is just discovering how far her new heart can take her, the extra power her mechanical heart gives her is amazing, but she has to remain vigilant to her bodies new needs.  During the day at school and during her ballet classes Anthem has to stay in control, always careful not to move too fast or jump too high - but at night she can push her body to the limits and see what she is really capable of.  It is a rush to know she can run so fast that she is almost invisible, but what starts as a test of her own skills becomes essential skills when the Invisible's gang starts to take lives.  Decades before the Hope was a source of hope in a city that desperately needed it, and as Anthem has become the New Hope.  Anthem is on a crash course to discover her past, her present, and her future and she can only hope that she comes out the other side intact - because not everyone will.

I was really enjoyed reading The brokenhearted, and when the library only got the ebook copy of The invisible instead of a tree book copy i made the leap and read my first ever ebook 'cover to cover'.  The invisible was a great read, and I think in some ways the experience was actually heightened by reading the ebook because there were none of the usual visual clues telling me how far through the book I was so I got to enjoy the story more (rather than going I'm 1/4 through, 1/2 through, 3/4 through).  The book itself was of course also an excellent read and follows seamlessly on from The brokenhearted.  

Anthem and her world is one that deserves to be discovered, and if you enjoyed book one then buckle up for book two which is also fast paced - and by reading all the way through you get to discover some rather mind blowing facts about Anthem and her family.  At times Kahaney stretches your ability to suspend belief about what Anthem and Ford are capable of, but it is a good stretch rather than a sharp snap.  A great series and if there are no more to come then hopefully Kahaney continues to write in this blend of science fiction/thriller/drama.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, March 19, 2016

NYPD Red 4 by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

NYPD Red 4 is the fourth book in the NYPD Red series and while it can be read as a stand alone book, it is best enjoyed as part of the rest of the series.  If you choose to keep reading this review there are ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in the earlier books.

A famous actress is the perfect model for a multi million dollar necklace, and when she dies during it's heist the case falls under the jurisdiction of NYPD Red and star detectives Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald.  They are the star detectives of Red for very good reason, they are smart, determined and have a knack for catching the bad guys and girls.  Sometimes it feels like they are the personal police force for the rich and famous, and when a second case lands in their laps it becomes very clear that their personal lives are going to be practically nonexistent - which is bad timing when Zach and Cheryl are trying cohabiting for the first time, and Kylie's husband Spence has gone on a drug bender.

The search for the missing necklace has the detectives chasing petty criminals who appear to have bitten off more than they can chew, but there is more to the story than meets the eye.  Their other case is just as perplexing, how are people stealing millions of dollars of medical equipment from some of the best hospitals in the city without being caught.  There is political pressure from all sides as Jordan and MacDonald race against the clock to crack the heist, make the NYPD look good, and stop the criminals who seem intent on stripping the hospitals of some serious equipment.  The cases would be hard enough to crack at the best of times, but with Spence out of rehab, high on drugs, and seemingly determined to taunt his wife by staying out of reach it is far from the best of times.  

The NYPD Red series continues to be a strong series, one that blends in elements of the thriller and adventure genres alongside the more traditional elements of the detective novel and "whodunnits".  There were three distinct strands to this novel which provided substance and dose of "reality" to the storyline - in real life people deal with multiple problems at once, life is seldom linear after all.  I have to confess that I am developing something of dislike for Detective MacDonald, mostly because she is all about the me, me, me and she reminds me a little too much of some of the people I have worked with over the years - which translates to having a lot of sympathy for her partner Detective Jordan!

This series has a lot of potential for future storylines and some interesting characters have been introduced that keep the cast of characters realistically broad and interesting.  Sometimes series like this can focus just on the core cast (Jordan, MacDonald, and Cates) but Patterson and Karp have been slowly introducing a wider cast of characters that makes it interesting and makes the series more believable.  A fun read, and a great way to spend an afternoon.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

What would you do if the worst/dumbest/grossest thing you had ever done was captured on film and became a viral hit?  Would you run, would you hide, would you fight back?  Su Oliphant-Brotheridge and her sister Leah are celebrating their A-Levels with a holiday in Magaluf when Su is caught on camera performing oral sex on men in a night club, and thanks to the wonder of modern technology what would have once been a shameful secret to hide among friends has become one of the most shared videos in the world.  Su was supposed to be the sensible sister, the baby chosen from Korea as a baby and brought back to Scotland, the one who is all set to start university to become a doctor.  Leah is supposed to be the wild child, the daughter they never expected to have, the miracle pregnancy after the arrival of baby Su.  For years Su has been everything her parents expect, while Leah has been everything her mother can't stand - but it wasn't Leah who did the deed, it was Su.  Too embarrassed to return home, Su goes into hiding and leaves Leah to return home alone.   

One night of bad decisions will have a powerful impact on all their lives - not just on Leah and Su, but also their parents.  Their mother Ruth is a judge, a very focused and practical woman who can focus on a case with single minded determination - a judge who has the rug pulled out from under her when she sees the video.  Their father Bernie may be more laid back but he is determined to fight for is daughter, even if his plans bring him into conflict with his wife.  With single minded determination Ruth sets out to prove that Su was a victim.  Reaching out to the police and professional colleagues she tries to figure out who the "bad guys" are so she can seek her own form of restorative justice.  When the unthinkable happens the whole family is in danger of being pulled apart, and then comes another blow, and another.  For the first time in her life Su is living each day as it comes, taking risks and living in the moment - with each day that passes her infamy grows and her choices seem to shrink.  If your worst mistake went viral would you run like Su, or fight like Ruth?

I won a copy of Viral via Instagram and I was very impressed from start to finish.  The story starts with a bang and the pressure continues to build throughout the novel as the shifting points of view of Su, Leah, and Ruth drives the story towards a satisfying and realistic conclusion.  This may be Su's story, but it could just as easily be the story of hundreds if not thousands of young woman who get drunk or high on drunks and get filmed engaging in sex acts that have the potential to ruin their lives.  A moment of thoughtlessness, a decision to get "wasted", an unwatched drink could lead to a situation like Su's for any of us - but rather than being preachy and in your face about, Fitzgerald offers a point of view of someone who is living the nightmare.  Through Bernie, Leah and Ruth we get to experience what it is like for the family too - the embarrassment, the rage, the concern, the fear, and the despair.   

Su and her story may be fiction, but it is an engaging story that sucks you in and makes you realise just how damaging these events can be.  Some authors tackle real life topics and turn them into a lecture, preaching at their audience through characters that seem flat and two dimensional.  From the start Su jumped off the page as a real person, followed closely by the larger than life character that is Ruth and the somewhat cliched (but justifiably so) Leah.  The language will unsettle some parents and younger teens, so this book is best read by older teens who can handle seeing the F word and who can process the emotional aspects of this book.  As the story unfolds in the present and in the past we learn more about these three women and what lead to the path they are on - supported and loved Su, the "neglected" and "rejected" Leah, and the perfectionist Ruth and her dislike for social workers.  I wanted to read Viral as soon as I saw the blurb and I am really impressed with the final product.  An excellent read and one that could become the next Go ask Alice, warning a generation to protect themselves from becoming a viral sensation for all the wrong reasons.  Like Su's video this book deserves to go Viral.

If you like this book then try:
  • Hate list by Jennifer Brown
  • Bitter end by Jennifer Brown
  • I swear by Lane Davis
  • Rooftop by Paul Volponi
  • Thousand words by Jennifer Brown
  • Panic by Sharon M. Draper
  • Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, March 11, 2016

A madness so discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Grace Mae has been confined in a Boston mental asylum, not because she is insane, but because she had the poor taste to be a girl of good breeding who became pregnant out of wedlock.  If the truth were known her reputation and the reputation of her family would be in tatters, so while society thinks she is abroad in Europe she is instead living in an asylum among the truly insane.  Food is scarce, the inmates are treated like animals, and there is no hope of salvation even once the baby is born because Grace has no control over her own life.  When she commits the ultimate sin of fighting back she is locked away in the basement where the worst of the insane are forgotten in the constant dark or rendered harmless through an extreme treatment.

Pushed to her limits Grace strikes an unusual bargain with one of the doctors who helps her escape from Boston, taking her with him to a new asylum in Ohio.  She may have swapped one asylum for another, but the two asylums could not be more different and for the first time in her life Grace feels safe and useful.  Her bargain means that the doctor will keep her secret as long as she helps him at crime scenes, using her extraordinary ability to observe and recollect details to help him uncover who the murderer might be.  It is not such a bad arrangement, but it does mean that she must pretend to be mute, hiding her voice and her intelligence from friends and strangers alike.  When it appears that a serial killer is stalking the streets of her new town Grace and her doctor become entangled in the mystery, and it soon becomes clear that Grace may indeed be mad - but it is a madness that is ever so discreet.

It is a challenge to come up with a truly unique story in this day and age, each year hundreds if not thousands of new books enter the young adult market - all competing for the attention of readers and reviewers alike.  A madness so discreet is a truly unique voice in this crowded market place a blend historical fiction, crime thriller and family drama built (primarily) on the relationship between Grace Mae and Dr. Thornhollow.  Grace is strong willed and determined to live life on her terms, despite what society might think.  Her reasons for ending up in the asylum in Boston are truly unjust and provide a sad reflection of the fate of many "inconvenient" women from that time period - it took very little to have a woman committed.  Dr. Thornhollow is an interesting contrast to Grace, he is helping her for his own gains and in many ways he is a spoilt man child who is too used to getting his own way.  His tinkers away at his hobbies and sees Grace as a means to an end.

There is a clear dividing line between Boston Grace and Ohio Grace, although in both places she gains friends in the most unexpected of places.  I was instantly drawn to the complex relationships of this novel and the subtle madness that everyone seemed to have, even the so called "sane" characters.  It took me longer to read A madness so discreet than I wanted because life kept getting in the way, but I finished the last 100 pages in a single sitting which almost made up for it.  This is a finished novel in itself, but I can't help but get the feeling (and the hope) that we may get to see Grace and her doctor again.  This is a richly drawn world that is well fleshed out without drowning you in inconsequential details.  A finely balanced read that has left me wanting more.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, March 4, 2016

Risk by Fleur Ferris

Taylor and Sierra have been best friends forever, sometimes it even seems like longer than forever because their mothers were best friends too.  Sierra leads a somewhat charmed life, her well off parents able to give her everything she needs and nearly everything she wants.  Taylor is more grounded, the death of her father leaving her mother and herself as a tight family unit.  Taylor is happy with her life, but sometimes it's a challenge not to get a little jealous of Sierra and her trips to the American ski season each year.  Taylor is the sensible friend, while Sierra is more inclined to see something she wants and just go for it.

When Sierra meets a cute boy online it seems like harmless fun - even if she is sneaking time on Taylor's internet because she is banned from accessing the internet herself after her last little "adventure".  When Jacob contacts Taylor she realises that Sierra used her details (again), but she quickly falls in love with him as they chat online over the weekend.  Taylor is all excited, until she discovers that Jacob has been chatting with Sierra all weekend too and they have agreed to meet.  Sierra is desperate to spend time with Jacob and arranges to sneak off with him while she is supposed to be staying with Taylor.

When Sierra doesn't make it home as promised Taylor thinks it is just Sierra being Sierra, but then another day goes past and Taylor realises that she has to tell Sierra's mother the truth.  Soon the police are involved, and Sierra's body is discovered.  As the full story comes out Taylor realises that nothing was as it seemed.  The carefully crafted lies of a calculating predator drew Sierra in and left her vulnerable.  As the weeks pass Taylor decides to create a blog to keep Sierra's memory alive, and to help stop other girls fall prey to predator that they don't even know exist.  Her goal is to stop Sierra's killer from taking another victim, but she may be too late for that.

Risk is an amazing book, not least of all because it is a story that needs to be told - and that teenagers need to read.  Often books about serious life topics (like Risk) are too serious or boring, trying to drill a message home rather than concentrating on telling a story teenagers can relate to.  Fleur Ferris has pulled off something of a miracle with Risk, the warning messages are all here, but they are carefully folded into a realistic and emotional story about an event that destroys the lives of not one, but two teenage girls.  Sierra may have died, and her family bears that loss, but because the lives of their families are so intertwined Taylor feels the loss of not only a best friend but also a sister and second family.  There is some uncomfortable reading here, and some moments that stretched my ability to suspend belief, but overall this is an engaging and emotional book.  I have to confess that I was more than a little teary eyed at the end of the book because I had connected with Taylor so strongly in this story!

I am not a teenager anymore by any stretch of the imagination, but this is a book written for today's teenagers - both in terms of the realistic language and relationships, but also because teenagers today are more vulnerable than previous generations because they live so much of their lives online with little understanding of the consequences.  Just to clarify I am not saying that teenagers are silly or stupid, just that teenagers have very different ideas about privacy and sharing things online!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

What waits in the woods by Kieran Scott

Callie has never been camping in her life, after all there's not a lot of opportunists to go camping in Chicago, but a move to a small town in upstate New York has meant quite a few changes.  Callie has managed the ultimate new girl coup, finding friends among the social elite of her new school and along with her boyfriend Jeremy they are all on a camping trip in the woods.  It is five days and four nights of nothing but nature - complete with bugs, blisters from new hiking boots, heavy packs, and creepy noises in the woods.  

Her "charming" friends ramp up the creep factor by telling tales of the Skinner, but Callie doesn't really need the wind up because the strange noises in the woods are enough to have her on edge all on their own.  When they loose most of their food and their means of navigating across the trails things quickly turn from bad to worse - because someone has their sights set on the group.  As the lack of food pushes them to their limits it soon becomes clear that everyone in the group is keeping secrets, secrets that could soon turn deadly.

What waits in the woods is one of those books that challenges anyone trying to review it - too much information and you ruin the little twists and turns, not enough information and you don't really sell the story.  This is one of the slickest psychological thrillers I have read in a long time, one that allows you to suspend belief and run with the story rather than get distracted by clues that are too in your face.  The use of the recovery journal, the voice of the psychopath, could have been a bad idea, but it helps to ratchet up the tension in the right moments.  

This story works because Callie is so new to the town of Mission Hills, if she was a local it never would have worked, but she is still learning about her friends and her new home.  When the camping trip goes wrong the tensions simmering under the surface start to rise and they all discover that everyone has been keeping secrets from each other, and some of those secrets cause tension within the group.  When their group of four grows things go from bad to worse, and Callie doesn't know who she should trust.  This is a twisted little read that I devoured in one sitting because I did not want to put it down for a moment - just so I could see if I guessed who the "bad guy" really was.  (I guessed right, can you?)

If you like this book then try:
  • NEED by Joelle Charbonneau
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen
  • The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Acceleration by Graham McNamee
  • Remember by Eileen Cook
  • Furious Jones and the assassin's secret by Tim Kehoe
  • Nearly gone by Elle Cosimano
  • Burning blue by Paul Griffin
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • The naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • The compound by S.A. Bodeen
  •  XVI by Julia Karr
  • The barcode tattoo by Suzanne Weyn
  • Proxy by Alex London

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Court of fives by Kate Elliott

Jessamy lives between two worlds - the world of her Patron father where they have money and share the benefits of his status as a war hero, and the world of her Commoner mother where the people are treated with disdain by the ruling Patron class.  Her world is a precarious one because it is unlawful for a Patron to marry a Commoner, so to many people Jessamy's mother is a concubine with an unusually devoted Patron man, and Jessamy and her sisters are "mules" - mixed breed children who had the added poor taste to be born female in a world where males are preferred.  Jes and her sisters are a blend of both cultures, some take after their father in looks while others look more like their mother, but they are all protected and raised in the same manner as well bred Patron girls.  For Jes, who dreams of running in the Fives, her Patron parentage is something to struggle against and resent.

When events take a sharp turn for the worse her father is forced to make a terrible decision - he must hand over Jes to a Lord and then severe ties with his "wife" and other daughters.  It should be a dream come true for Jes, but she soon comes to realise that nothing is as it seems and that her mother and sisters are paying a heavy price for her to live her dream.  Strong willed to the point of being mulishly stubborn, Jes must find a way to save her family before everything is lost, but the odds are stacked against her.  Her one advantage is her growing friendship with Lord Kalliarkos, but even with the help of her friend Kal there is no surety that she will be able to save herself - let alone the rest of her family.  To save herself and her dream Jes may have to sacrifice her family, but if she saves her family she may have to sacrifice her dreams.  It is time for Jes to discover the truth about her city and it's past, because nothing is what it seems, and everyone seems to be playing games with her as their game piece.

Court of fives is the first book in a new series by Kate Elliott, and it is touted as her first foray into young adult fiction.  While this is written as a young adult novel, it is one of those amazing reads that crossed ages and would suit most (if not all) adult fantasy readers as well.  Jes and her family are fully formed characters - complete with strengths, weaknesses, desires, and dreams.  In many ways this book is a well written fantasy that doesn't need any additional labels, the lead character and her siblings may be teenagers but they are living very adult lives and having to make adult decisions in a world that is delightfully brutal for your typical teen fantasy series.  Fans of Sarah J. Maas and Rae Carson will find a lot to like here as the magic and fantasy are ambient to the world rather than something that is showy and requires a lot of complicated explanation.

I found this series now which is great because it means that in theory I only have to wait a few more months for the next book in the series to be released - and i am looking forward to seeing what twists and turns Elliott takes next in her world building because the ending of Court of fives was a mind blowing moment of "did that really just happen?".  I resented every moment I had to put this book down when I started reading which is the sign of a great series, the fact that as I reached the end of the book I tried to slow down my reading to make the story last longer makes it an even greater series.  

There is a lot to like here and very little not to like, the characters have been sculpted and had life breathed into them, and now they are pawns on the board of their creators imagination - but at the rate Jes is developing her own sense of self she may yet prove to be the creator of her own destiny (and Elliott may have to follow her lead).

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Reviewed by Brilla