Saturday, May 28, 2016

Behind closed doors by B.A. Paris

Jack and Grace have a beautiful home and a perfect marriage.  Jack is a successful lawyer who defends women who have been battered by their husbands - he may work long hours but he still finds time to take Grace on regular holidays to exotic lands.  Grace is refined and elegant, she may not be employed but she keeps an immaculate home and hosts amazing dinner parties.  They may have married after a whirlwind courtship but they are obviously in love and are counting down the days until Grace's younger sister Millie turns eighteen and moves in with them - making their family complete.  

But maybe things aren't as perfect as they seem, because while people see Jack without Grace, they never see Grace without Jack.  If only their friends knew the truth, that Grace is not a pampered and kept wife, she is instead a trapped and tortured captive.  Everything about her life is controlled and manipulated, from the clothes she does or doesn't wear, the amount of food she gets, and the tasks she has to complete.  Jack is controlling and manipulative and keeps Grace under his thumb through games that keep her on edge and nervous - but with Millie's life in the balance as well Grace may finally be able to fight back.  But fighting back is dangerous, and if Grace fails it is not only her life in the balance.

Behind closed doors was a rather sickening read, but it was also addictive and very difficult to put down as it ping ponged back and forth between events in the past and events in the present.  I almost gave up after the first two chapters, and I am really glad that I didn't give up because I would have missed out on a truly interesting psychological thriller that keeps you guessing what will happen right up until the end.  Grace is a normal person who ends up in a dark and dangerous situation, and through her eyes and experiences we get to see how women end up in destructive relationships.  People often wonder out loud how battered women end up in the situations they do, and trough Grace's experiences you get an inkling of just how easy it is for some men to manipulate women and keep them under their thumb.  On the flip side of the coin you have Jack who is poised and in control, and as the story goes on you get to see just how manipulative he really is.  

This is not a book for the fainthearted - Jack is not a pleasant person in any way shape or form, and some of the things he does go beyond manipulative to a true mark of the sociopath.  Paris managed to find a good balance between keeping the story moving forward and giving you the chance to catch your breath before moving on to the next nasty trick or manipulation.  The alternating chapters may annoy some readers, but for this story it really works because it lets you jump into the action without bogging you down in too much details, but it also then fills in the background without slowing down the main story line too much.  It will be very interesting to see if Paris writes any more books of this caliber because it was a very good read.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Killer instinct by S.E. Green

On the outside Lane seems like a pretty typical teenager, but deep down she knows that she is not normal.  No normal teenager keeps a scrap book about serial killers - something Lane has done since she was a child.  Keeping her dark self a secret is important to Lane as her mother and stepfather both work for the FBI, but she also has to find some way of letting it out.  When Lane watches a rapist get away with his crime because of a lack of evidence she decides to do something about it, and a new part of her story begins.  Teaching criminals a lesson is exhilarating and risky, but nothing compared to the realisation that a serial killer knows who she is, and that he is reaching out to her.  Can Lane decipher the clues and figure out who the killer is before she becomes his next victim?

I have a slight addiction to reading crime novels, something I am not ashamed to admit.   I also enjoy watching crime shows for the same reason - I like to see if I can figure out what is going to happen before it happens.  When I read the blurb for Killer instinct it really appealed because too often teen novels shy away from darker subjects, robbing teens of the chance to read age appropriate but challenging material (not everyone likes teen romances, vampires, or werewolves).  I wasn't sure what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a book that walked the line between intense and dark with style - yes Lane may be a budding serial killer, but she is not unnecessarily cruel or twisted.

Lane is the character in sharpest focus throughout the story, with the rest of the characters tending to fade into the background.  Usually I find it difficult to read books where the main character is the only one that you really get to know, but considering Lane is supposed to be a budding sociopath it makes sense as they often have trouble understanding and relating to other people.  There are some very interesting moments throughout Killer instinct that keep you guessing about what is coming next and it was a very good read - light, but interesting.  

(Some of you may feel a little bit of a Dexter feel with Lane, I felt it but it didn't feel like a carbon copy done for teens).

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

Lady Elizabeth Witmore, Countess of Rothford is part of the glittering elite of Osfrid who can trace her ancestry back to one of the founding fathers of her country.  She has a title and pedigree, but due to an unfortaunte series of investments on the part of her dearly departed parents she is also practically broke.  She may live a comfortable life now, but the money is slowly draining away, all her estates have been sold, and her Grandmama is looking for a suitable match.  Unfortunately her idea of a suitable match and her Grandmama's are not the same, and as the day of her marriage draws closer she can't help but look for an alternative.  Her chance to escape comes when one of the maids from her dismantled household is offered a place at the Glittering Court - a finishing school that takes common girls, educates and trains them, and then sends them across the sea to the young colony of Adoria. 

Sending off the maid and taking her place is just the start of her new life, as 'Adelaide' has to carefully hide what she really is - if she is discovered she will be sent back to her old life and her future husband.  Life in the Glittering Court is more challenging than Adelaide could ever have guessed, not because learning to be a lady is difficult, but rather the opposite - she has to pretend to be less than she is, less refined than she is, and she works hard to stay in the middle of the crowd.  No one guesses her secret though, and the only person who knows her real identity is Cedric Thorn, the man who recruited the real Adelaide.  On the far side of the ocean in Adoria, Adelaide is popular with the men hoping to wed new wives, but she is starting to realise that she wants more than what she is being offered.  A new land brings the chance for a new life, but also new dangers.

The Glittering Court is the first book in a new series from Richelle Mead, and it was a pleasant surprise to find a book that has a lot of substance and well rounded character development.  It seems that lately there is a trend for quick read fantasy and dramas that hum along but don't really give you the chance to get to know the world or the characters; or the other extreme of intense and densely packed novels that could cure insomnia with their attention to minute detail.  The Glittering Court has managed the seeming impossible task of keeping the story moving at a good clip while also fulfilling your craving for a richly imagined world with characters that feel like your friends.  Adelaide is interesting and not your typical spoilt noble, and as events unfold she discovers more about herself and grows as a character which makes her even more likeable and human.  The characters around her are interesting and multifaceted, having their own secrets and motivations (just like real people). 

While this is the first book in a series it left me feeling like I had achieved something and I can now patiently wait for the next book in the series.  It will be interesting to see how many books as in this series as The Glittering Court could either be the foundation book for a long series, or the foundation book for a series as short as a duology or trilogy.  An excellent read - enjoy!

If you like this book then try:
  • Walk on Earth a stranger by Rae Carson
  • Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The scorpion rules by Erin Bow
  • Throne of glass by Sarah J. Maas
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Crown duel by Sherwood Smith
  • Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
  • Ink and bone by Rachel Caine
  • The kiss of deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • Grave mercy by Robin LaFevers

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A court of mist and fury by Sarah J. Maas

A court of mist and fury is the sequel to A court of thorns and roses and you really need to read the first book first and before you read any more of this review as there are ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first book in the series.

Feyre may have succeeded in breaking Amarantha's hold on Prythian, but she has also been transformed into a strange blend of high fae and human.  She has the appearance of the high fae but her heart is still human - broken, damaged, and craving love.  It seems that she has found her true love with Tamlin, but all he wants to do is protect and coddle her and that is not what Feyre needs or wants.  To the other high fae she is Feyre Cursebreaker, but Tamlin can't seem to see past her former human frailty.  While Tamlin and Lucien travel the lands of the Court weeding out enemies and danger Feyre finds herself planning for a wedding and a life that is suddenly suffocating.

When Rhysand, the High Lord of the Night Court appears at a most inconvenient time to collect her to fulfill her side of a desperate bargain it seems like pouring salt on Tamlin's wounds - but for Feyre it brings a surprising peace.  In the dreaded Night Court the nightmares that have plagued her seem to loose their impact, seem to fade a little.  When the unthinkable happens Feyre finds herself transported not to the Night Court, but to a hidden world that is nothing like what she could have hoped or dreamed of.  War is coming, and as their enemies move against them Feyre has to find out what she can do with her new immortal body and her magic - for war and for pleasure.  It seems as though there are conspiracies and intrigues around every corner, and if Feyre is not careful she may loose everything she holds dear without even realising what she is risking.

A court of mist and fury is a mammoth 624 pages of love, betrayal, intrigue, romance, self discovery, and kicking butt.  Feyre and her world were artfully crafted on the pages of A court of thorn and roses, and now that world comes into sharp focus as Feyre learns more about the world of the high fae, what it means to be one of them, and faces some of the limitations of her new world.  To be remade as a high fae after hearing her own death has left more than a few scars on her psyche and she feels damaged and bruised in more ways than one - a survivor with PTSD and other issues.  

Maas took some rather interesting turns with this second book in the series - and as is almost always the case talking about those turns will ruin some of the lovely little surprises along the way!  This is definitely a series for older teen readers (and the adults willing to read a 'teen' novel) as there are some rather racy sex scenes that have caused something of a flutter among some of the school librarians as they try and decide if it should be for senior students only or not carried at all!  I have to confess that I love the fact there are books aimed at older teen readers, books that teens can really sink their teeth into, that they know were written for them by an author who gets them.  When Maas was in New Zealand last year it was really clear that she connected strongly with her teen audience and that they connected just as strongly with her.  Feyre is not perfect, no one in her world is, but that is what makes this series so amazing.

There is only one more book to go in this series so hopefully we don't have to wait too long to see what comes next for Feyre because there is a rather large cliff hanger at the end of A court of mist and fury that leaves you wanting more.  Highly recommended for teens who like to read rich and well imagined fantasy with outstanding character and world development, and who are not afraid to commit to a 400+ page book that will keep them hooked from cover to cover.  

If you like this book then try:
  • A court of thorns and roses by Sarah J. Maas
  • Arrows of the queen by Mercedes Lackey
  • Throne of glass by Sarah J. Maas
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The Fire rose by Mercedes Lackey
  • Home from the sea by Mercedes Lackey
  • Reserved for the cat by Mercedes Lackey
  • Steadfast by Mercedes Lackey
  • Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey
  • From a high tower by Mercedes Lackey
  • Deerskin by Robin McKinley
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • Rose daughter by Robin McKinley
  • Spindle's end by Robin McKinley
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fire touched by Patricia Briggs

Fire touched is the ninth book in the Mercy Thompson series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** of what happens in the previous books.  If you like to read series in order then don't read anymore of this review until you have read the other books in this series - a series that really benefits from being read in the right order.  I highly recommend reading Shifting shadows first too as the short stories will help you make sense of some of the characters.

Life is never dull for the Columbia Basin werewolves - especially since Mercy joined their pack and became the Alpha's mate and wife.  It seems as though Mercy is something of a trouble magnet, and when a troll wrecks havoc and she makes a sweeping proclamation about the pack protecting it's territory (captured for eternity on film) a whole heap of trouble ends up on their doorstep.  The first to seek shelter is a being who looks like a sweet young child on the outside, but he has been warped and changed by Underhill over a very long time and he has a unique mastery of fire that makes him very desirable to some and very dangerous to others.  

Aiden has claimed sanctuary with the pack, a desperate bid to stay away from the fae who seem intent on taking him apart to see how he works.  Others seem to want to control him so they can wriggle their way back into Underhill's good graces.  Mercy and Adam only want to give him a safe place - something the pack can give him for a short time at least, but at a terrible cost.  The fae may have taken themselves away to live under their own laws and not the laws of man, that doesn't mean that they are finished playing games with the mortals around them.  So very powerful fae are playing games with Mercy, Adam, and the pack - and some of those games could have devastating consequences for everyone.

Anyone who has read any of my reviews of the Mercy Thompson or Alpha and Omega books knows how much I adore these series and how eagerly I await each new book in the series.  I enjoyed them so much that I went on a reading binge last year that saw me polish off the series in a very short space of time.  Fire touched adds another chapter to the story of Mercy, Adam, and their version of our world, and it feels very much like this is a book that has laid the foundations for something truly epic to come.  The book is whole and complete in itself, but some players have revealed themselves through the course of the book, and there are some new characters that feel like they are here to stay rather than just walking through.  

I tried to resist the temptation of galloping through the book, but alas it was finished all too quickly and now I can't wait to see what happens next for the Alpha and Omega series as there is the inevitable cross over between the two worlds.  It looks like war might be coming, or at least a huge shake up - so now all we can do is wait and see what happens next.

The recommended reading order is:

And to fill in the gaps there are some new (and old) short stories in:
  • Shifting shadows: Stories from the world of Mercy Thompson

If you like this book then try:
  • Tinker by Wen Spencer
  • Night shifted by Cassie Alexander
  • Kitty and the midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Dark descendant by Jenna Black
  • Burning water by Mercedes Lackey
  • Blood price by Tanya Huff
  • Urban shaman by C.E. Murphy
  • Spiders bite by Jennifer Estep
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dogs that make a difference edited by Saskia Adams

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and for thoudands of years they have worked alongside mankind in a varirty of roles - from herding, to searching, to guarding.  In more recent decades 'mans best friend' has found a place guiding the blind, alerting the deaf, and supporting people with mobility - and they have also found a place as therapy animals.  In Australia teams from Delta therapy dogs visit rest homes, aged care facilities, hospitals, psychiatric facilities, and help children in schools and libraries with their reading.  

This touching and heartwarming book is brimming with personal stories from Delta volunteers, marking the small (and not so small) differences their therapy dogs have made in the lives of people going through the challenges of illness or the slow decline of old age.  There are stories that will make you tear up, while others will make you smile.  In hospitals the dogs can make a real difference for children facing challenigng and painful medical procedures, easing the pain by providing a distraction and company.  In aged care they light the spark for dementia residents who may have forgotten many things but will always remember the day that their four footed friend comes to visit.  Each dog is special in their own way, and each partnership experiences the joy of volunteering together in a different way - but they are all amazing partnerships.

I volunteer with a therapy pets programme in New Zealand and many of the stories that I read in Dogs that make a difference sound achingly familiar because I know volunteers who have had the same experience - or I have experienced similar events with my own dogs.  There is the story of the dog that developed a special relationship with a resident who passed away, and the dog then refused to enter that room again (in Australia the dog became distressed and had to be removed from the room).  There is the child who was terrified of dogs but learned to overcome that fear - I had the same experience with a child at the school I visit where at first he was in the toilets crying and afraid to come to class, and by the end of the year he was willing to not only be near Houdini but also willing to sit with and cuddle him.  

There are amazing stories to discover here and if you are interested in animal assisted therapy then this book is a great place to start if you want to learn what it is really like.

If you would like to read more books about working dogs try:

Reviewed by Brilla