Friday, September 30, 2016

Poisoned blade by Kate Elliott

Poisoned blade is the sequel to Court of fives so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first book in the series.  I highly recommend reading Court of fives before you read anymore of this review as this is a series that is best read in order.

Jes is trapped in the world - not only because she is subject to the whims of Lord Gargaron, but also becuase she is of two different worlds and not really accepted by either.  To the ruling Patron class she is a mule, tainted by her Efean heritage, and to the Efeans she is not to be trusted because of her Patron father.  The only place that Jes feels any control over her life is on the Fives court - and even there she has no real control as she runs for the Garon stable for the glory of Lord Gargaron.  Her fate seems sealed, as does that of her family, but Jes is not one to yield to mere fate.

A tour of the provinces belonging to Garon Palace is a chance for Jes to try and find the remaining part of her family, but it also exposes her to new challenges and complications.  What seemed like a simple plan soon unravels as nothing is what it seems - a fact Jes should be well used to by now.  As plans and schemes start falling into place Jes will finally discover what it truly means to be part of both worlds and just how dangerous change can be.  In times of war people make desperate decisions, and sometimes those decisions lead to sacrifices.  Jes is her fathers daughter, but she is also her mothers daughter and the time is coming when she may have to choose between them and their respective peoples.  Change is coming and it may be a humble "mule" that holds the key to the future of Efea.

Poisoned blade is the second book in the Court of fives series and I am well and truly hooked on this series, not only because it is a brilliant read, but also because it fills a gap in the teen fantasy market.  Too often fantasy is written for very young teens and is sugar coated, or it is written for older teens and the content can be very explicit or disturbing for younger teens - Elliott has found the perfect balance of providing a detailed and engrossing read without the sex and bloody gore that marks some of the other series (not a criticism of those series as they also have an important role to play in the teen fantasy genre).  

The world of Efea was slowly unfurled for us in Court of fives, and with Poisoned blade we get to explore more of the world - both in physical geography and in terms of the people and politics.  Jes has continued to grow and develop, the true mark of an epic fantasy series as she is slowly being molded and changed by her experiences.  I was so absorbed in the story that at times I was surprised to see how many pages I had read on the go, and when I got to the end I was a little surprised to see there wasn't anymore because I wanted more - Elliott has left a cliff hanger style ending that was satisfying but has me eagerly awaiting the next book in the series to see what comes next!  

This is a great series that blends together all the essential elements of an epic fantasy series that can easily be enjoyed by teens and adults alike.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Ones by Daniel Sweren-Becker

In America one percent of the population has won the ultimate lottery - the chance to be genetically altered to be the best version of yourself you can possibly be.  These Ones have the ultimate advantage, they are more intelligent, more athletic, more talented and more beautiful.  All her life Cody has know she is a One, and so has her boyfriend James.  They are a perfect match for each other, although his parents may not agree quite so much because Cody comes from the poor side of town.  Life seems perfect - until a single moment creates a movement that leads to the Ones becoming second class citizens, punished for the perfection that was supposed to ensure them a bright future.

It seems as thought overnight everything they have worked hard to achieve is ripped away from them - their achievements not their achievements, merely a result of their genetics.  James and his family seem to take it all in stride, watching all the changes and waiting to see what comes next.  Cody on the other hand is consumed with intense anger as everything she worked for is taken away, and she is determined to fight against the changes no matter what the cost.  Cody is soon tangled up in a web of lies and danger as some of the Ones decide to fight back - and they are not afraid to use force to fight back.

There has been a trend in recent years to write dystopian or speculative fiction and some of them have been really good, some have been mediocre, and some have been rubbish - the fact I read The Ones in a single sprint proves this is one of the good ones.  Sweren-Becker has created a world that is just around the corner and that is totally, scarily believable.  The smallest incident explodes into a huge movement that sweeps everyone up in it's path - the Ones are affected, their families are affected, and the unrest affects everyone.  There are some delightful little twists that keep you wondering what will happen right to end - and I hope, hope from the ending that there will be more in this series.

If you are looking for an excellent dystopian read for younger teens or teens who struggle with "dense" and complicated reads then I highly recommend The Ones.   

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Let's play make-believe by James Patterson and James O. Born

Christy Moore is trying to pull her life back together after her husband decided that he no longer wanted to be married to her - leaving her wondering about her future because a cast iron prenup has her cut out of his assets.  Her life seems stuck in neutral until she meets Martin "Marty" Hawking, a man whose marriage has also failed.  They start slow but things soon speed up, especially when Marty decides to spice things up with a few games.  Christy has always been on the straight and narrow, but things are about to go very much off the rails.

Bookshots have a wide variety of books in the series - some tie in with other full novel series, while others are stand alone novellas.  Let's play make-believe is a stand alone novella which means you can dive in with no background and enjoy with no strings attached!  This is a slick little thriller that kept you guessing until the very end.

If you like this book then try:
  • Private Royals by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • Zoo 2 by James Patterson and Max DiLallo
  • The hostage by James Patterson and Robert Gold
  • Black and Blue by James Patterson and Candice Fox
  • Chase by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Airport code red by James Patterson and Michael White

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Empire of storms by Sarah J. Maas

Empire of storms is the fifth book in the Throne of glass series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first books in the series.  This series is best enjoyed in order so I suggest you read Throne of glassCrown of midnightHeir of fire and Queen of shadows before you read any more of this review.

After a decade in hiding as Celaena Sardothien, Aelin Ashryver Galathynius is ready to accept her birthright as Queen of Terrasen - but it seems that her people, or at least the Terrasen nobles, are not ready to accept a former assassin as their Queen.  Turned away from her homeland Aelin turns her attention to the evil Valg Prince who has finally revealed himself as the force that is stalking the land.  

Aelin may be growing into her power, but the challenge seems to get bigger to match.  She has gone from mere survival as an assassin through to an aspiring queen who has to face challenges from witches, elves, and Valg princes.  She has allies as well, but against unrelenting and vast numbers of enemies it seems as though the fight is hopeless but she won't give up.  All of her hopes and schemes are coming to fruition, but it may not be enough to stop the ancient evil that is rising on all sides.

I love, love, love this series and one of the most frustrating things about reviewing books in this series (and pretty much every book by Sarah J. Maas for that matter) is that to do a long/good review you have to offer some spoilers and I am loathe to do that so all I will say is that this series is amazing for older teens and adults alike (younger teens will struggle with some of the themes at times) - blending together all the best elements of classic epic fantasy series.  The one thing was that it was soooo long and demanded to be read in one sitting.  Looking forward to the final book in the series so we can see what is in store for Aelin and all her friends, allies, and family - because it promises to be epic!
This is an excellent series and highly recommended - but make sure you read it in order!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, September 9, 2016

Never never by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Never Never follows on from Black & Blue, part of the Bookshots series and I highly recommend reading it before picking up Never Never as it is a great read and gives you some of the background for Detective Blue.  You can also read Never Never on it's own, but you will enjoy it more after reading Black & Blue.

Detective Harriet "Harry" Blue has just had the rug pulled out from under her feet - her brother has been accused of murder and she has been sent to the middle of nowhere to escape the media circus that is about to descend on her.  The case is an excuse to get away, but it soon turns out to be more than she expected.  A miner has gone walk about from the mine, nothing that unusal for an isolated mine where people spend three weeks at a time with very little to do but work, but this time his severed foot was dragged into the camp by a dingo.  No one at the mine wants Detective Blue and her temporary partner there, the hostility is subtle for some and more open for others - and the mine bosses seem determined to put roadblocks in the way for the Detectives.

As they investigate it soon becomes clear that there is definitely more than one potential victim - other people have allegedly walked away from the camp, victims of the isolation in most peoples minds.  Harry knows there is more to the case and throws herself into the investigation, and there are some good suspects, and when others are targeted Harry is somewhat vindicated.  A killer is hunting in the mine, a killer with the weapon and skill to take out any opponent they want.  Time is running out for Harry, not only with the killer but also with her game of cat and mouse with the media.  With a partner she doesn't know if she can trust or not, and the odds stacked against her this is a case that will have deadly consequences if Detective Harry Blue can't untangle the truth.

Black & Blue was a tempting taste of Detective Harry Blue, a "tough as nails" cop who doesn't let anyone or anything get to her.  In Never Never we get to see beneath the surface a little, a glimpse of the emotional scars she carries, and the genuine confusion and self doubt about not seeing the truth about her brother.  The setting of the mine creates a tense and somewhat surreal environment, they might as well be on the moon with the isolation and quirks that everyone has.  People under pressure display weird behaviours and can crack, and that is what you see in so many of the characters in Never Never - including Harry herself in many respects. 

This is a book series that has real potential to not only blow away some of the stereotypes about female detectives, but to also explore the land Down Under.  I have said before that it is nice to have something set in my "neighbourhood" and while Australia is across the "Ditch" from New Zealand we share a lot of the same language and history and it was nice not to have to puzzle over some of the things that Americans take for granted (like what dos a bear claw look like without resorting to Google). 

This is a great series, and James Patterson and Candice Fox have created a seamless story without any stuttering or hesitation - a smooth writing style that blends their ideas together seamlessly.  Some reviewers have grumbled about the book being written to a formula, but that is true of most genre fiction and Patterson and his co-authors take you on a familiar yet exhilarating ride that challenges you to figure out whodunit before the end of the novel.  Here's hoping Patterson can find time in his busy schedule to add to this interesting and enjoyable series.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

    Wednesday, September 7, 2016

    City of the lost by Kelley Armstrong

    Detective Casey Duncan is a fighter - for herself and the people she loves.  When she was in college she was left permanently scarred when her boyfriend was arrogant enough to deal drugs on someone else's turf, and cowardly enough to rabbit when they came to teach him a lesson - leaving Casey to take the beating that should have been his.  She got her revenge, but that left her with a different kind of scar and a secret that she can't seem to keep.  The one person who gets the complicated package that is Casey Duncan is her best friend Diana, who can't seem to avoid making bad life decisions and has terrible taste in men. 

    When Diana tells Casey about a hidden town where people go to disappear it seems too good to be true, and Casey is highly suspicious, but it turns out the stories are true.  When Diana is badly beaten by her ex Casey and Diana find themselves in the small settlement of Rockton, where everyone is someone else and everyone is keeping secrets.  Sheriff Eric Dalton was desperate for a detective to join his team because a killer is hunting in Rockton, but he would happily take anyone other than Casey.  As the killer strikes again Casey has to overcome a lot of obstacles, including fending off the local residents where she is seen as an attractive prize - not hard in a town where the men out number the women.  Casey has a very short time to track down a killer, and in a town where no one is who or what they seem, that is no easy feat.  Rockton is a place to disappear and be someone else - or at least pretend to be someone else.

    City of the lost was originally published as a six-part e-book series and I am very glad that I didn't discover the story until it was crammed into one addictive volume.  I did not want to put down the book once I started, I just had to read the next page to find out what happens next, and then read the next chapter, and the next chapter.  Some reviewers have been harsh on this book, saying not so complimentary things about the characters and the way they have been written (especially Sheriff Eric Dalton) but I found that they were a perfect fit for themselves and each other.  All of the characters are damaged in one way or another, and that complexity of character works for this book.  It didn't feel like a book of more than 460 pages, it read easily and kept me fully engaged from start to finish (resenting every moment I had to put the book down to do things like work or sleep). 

    There is a chance that this could be the start of a new series, but it could also be a standalone read which is also fine.  A great read - enjoy!

    If you like this book then try:
    • Omens by Kelley Armstrong
    • Pop goes the weasel by M.J. Arlidge
    • City of fear by Alafair Burke
    • The edge of normal by Carla Norton
    • Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
    • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarratano
    • The Postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
    • One step too far by Tina Seskis
    • The basement by Stephen Leather
    • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
    • Now you see her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
    • Level 26: Dark origins by Anthony E. Zuiker and Duane Swierczynski

    Reviewed by Brilla