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

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Closer to the heart by Mercedes Lackey

Closer to the chest is the third book in The Herald spy series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in Closer to home and Closer to the heart - you can read this story independently but you will enjoy it more if you have read Closer to home and The Collegium chronicles which is the story about how Mags came to be a Herald of Valdemar.

Being a Herald is challenging at the best of times, always working tirelessly for the good of the Kingdom of Valdemar - but when you are husband to the King's Own Herald and working as a Herald spy it is even more challenging.  Herald Mags has become used to living multiple lives at once, but that doesn't mean it is pleasant - when he walks the streets of Valdemar in disguise he learns a lot about the streets of Haven, but it also leaves him open to attack from people who don't appreciate his meddling. 

Harkon let's Mags move about with ease, but his habit of collecting street urchins from masters that use and abuse them has drawn some nasty attention his way and Mags can't afford the distraction.  Someone is targeting the women of the Court and the Collegia, leaving nasty notes that criticise them for being harlots and stealing from men, hate filled rhetoric designed to rip women down and remind them of their proper place.  For some women it seems like a nasty joke that they shrug off and laugh away, but for others it is a crippling blow that strips them of their confidence.  Not content with the use of mere words, the damage soon escalates to attacks on businesses owned and operated by women, and exclusively female religious orders.

The arrival of a new religious order, Sethor the Patriach, seems to logically link to the attacks but neither Mags nor Amily can find a link between the attacks and the order.  If anything, the priests of Sethor appear to be doing a lot for the men of their local neighbourhood.  There is something festering under the surface in Haven, and the mood is not helped with the sweltering heat of summer.  With the attacks escalating Mags and Amily are running out of time to solve the mystery before someone dies.

I love Valdemar - stated boldly to be upfront about my bias when it comes to reviewing Mercedes Lackey books!  For the first time, we really get to experience what it truly means for Valdemar to have no one "true way" when it comes to religion, which makes it rather tricky for the characters to deal with this time.  I may struggle a little with the way Mags speaks when he is being "common" (as I have noted in previous reviews) but I just adore the relationship between Mags and Dallen - and I have to say that I think Dallen is my all time favourite Companion.  The interplay between Mags and Dallen rings completely true for the relationship between a Herald and their Companion, partly helped because of a particularly strong gift for Mindspeech. 

It has been an incredible journey over the past few years as Mags has established himself as a Herald and a trusted member of the King's inner court, and there are hints that there is more to come.  The time they live in is one that has not been explored before, and it is unusual to spend so much time with a single set of characters - although their world does shrink and grow like it would in real life, with characters arriving and departing as their lives dictate.  I hope that Lackey continues to work with their characters (even if that is because I want to see more of Dallen!).  This is a highly recommended world for readers who enjoy their fantasy with real characters, real situations, and real challenges.  It is difficult to hate people because of their race, religion, or sexuality after reading about the world of Valdemar!

The Collegium chronicles:
  • Foundation by Mercedes Lackey
  • Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey
  • Changes by Merdeces Lackey
  • Redoubt by Mercedes Lackey
  • Bastion by Mercedes Lackey

The Herald Spy:
  • Closer to home by Mercedes Lackey
  • Closer to the heart by Mercedes Lackey
  • Closer to the chest by Mercedes Lackey

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

French kiss by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

French Detective Luc Moncrief is a long way from his home working the streets of New York.  It is supposed to be a chance for him to polish his detective work, bringing some real skills to balance out the instincts that drove his work in Paris and now in New York.  His partner Maria Martinez has her work cut out for her, after all a French detective in New York is still a French detective! 

When Maria is found murdered Detective Moncrief is partnered with another detective, and she is just as by the book and determined to do things the "right way" as Martinez was - and Moncrief is just as determined to keep doing things the way he wanted.  All of his instinct and determination will mean nothing if Moncrief can't get to the bottom of the mystery.  How many more people will die before he discovers the truth?

Bookshots have a wide variety of books in the series - some tie in with other full novel series, while others are stand alone novellas.  French kiss is a stand alone novella at the moment, but we can look forward to the upcoming The Christmas Mystery

Detective Luc Moncrief is charmingly arrogant and self assured, he has grown up with money and appears to have a somewhat warped view about the world (he is very, very French).  There are some delightful moments of culture shock for him, and this very snappily written addition to the Bookshots series does credit not only to the authors, but also to the principles behind the series - this is definitely 145 pages of high octane action and drama!

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
  • Let's play make-believe by James Patterson and James O'Born
  • Chase by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Heist by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • Airport code red by James Patterson and Michael White

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Holding smoke by Elle Cosimano

John "Smoke" Conlan is in the Y - a juvenile rehabilitation centre in Denver, Colorado.  He is serving time for two murders, his English teacher and a teenage boy, but he only has the blood of one person on his hands not two.  The Y is a brutal place where all the inmates are guilty of a serious crime, and you have to be strong and keep your wits about you at all times if you want to stay alive.  Some people rely on brute force for respect, but Smoke provides a unique service instead - he trades in information about the outside world.  

Everyone in the Y thinks he has amazing contacts on the outside, but the truth is that at night when everyone else is asleep he slips out of his body and walks the streets looking for information he can use and trade on the inside.  Some of the information he finds is ordered by the inmates through a carefully controlled and secretive method, but other information he finds while he is roaming the streets.  When he stumbles across a person who can see him when he is out completing an order one day his life changes - and becomes infinitely more complicated.  

John lives up to his nickname Smoke in more ways than one, because when he leaves his body he becomes a hazy version of himself and with each visit outside his body he loses strands of his being that drift away like smoke in a breeze.  When he discovers that he is literally losing threads of himself each time he leaves his body, Smoke has to make the hard decision of taking the easy road and protecting himself, or risking his life and possibly his soul to do the right thing.

Elle Cosimano created a fresh and unique crime thriller with her books Nearly gone and Nearly found - adding a touch of the supernatural to the thriller/mystery genre.  With Holding smoke Cosimano has once again blended together the thriller/mystery and the supernatural, but this time the supernatural is something that could be true for anyone who had been through the same situation as Smoke, which makes it completely believable.  Smoke is a character you can't help but like, for me simply because he was a victim of circumstance and while he does look out for himself, ultimately he is willing to make sacrifices to do the right thing.

Cosimano is an amazing writer, and she has managed to carve off a little slice of the young adult writing market - something that is not easy to do at all.  The world she has created is rich in the details that make life "real", but not so focused on being unique and new that she comes across as being "too clever".  There is a lot to like here, and nothing to dislike, and I can't wait to see what comes next from this very talented author.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Street soldier by Andy McNab

After years of running the streets stealing cars and making some trouble with his friends Sean Harker has finally been caught by the Police and sentenced to time in a juvenile detention centre.  On the streets he was never alone, his friends were like family, and two of his "family" are inside with him.  When tragedy hits a little too close to home and Sean is offered a chance to change his life and change his fate he takes it - but that chance at a new future comes at the expense of his old life.  

Sean has finally found a place to call home and a family that lives and fights beside him, a family that offers a chance for a real future.  When he returns home to visit his mother he is disturbed to find how much the old neighbourhood has changed - and not for the better.  When he is offered the chance to help his mother he jumps at the chance, but he should have remembered that money and favours always come with strings attached.  He may have been trained to fight a war overseas but the first war he is going to fight is much closer to home, and getting closer by the day.

Andy McNab has a knack for writing thoroughly engaging stories with young characters that face challenges that would make a lot of adults run for cover.  While Sean is a teenager, that doesn't limit the audience to teenagers, I read this as an adult and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Thanks to authors like McNab, Chris Ryan, and Robert Muchamore there are some amazing books for young adults that are well written and suck the audience in - they also don't pull literary punches, putting their characters into difficult and confronting situations.  

Sean is not perfect and doesn't deserve to be on a pedestal, but he is a well drawn character that has strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and he grows through the course of the story.  The world created around him is realistic and the people who populate his world also ring true, even for someone from a completely different part of the world.  This is a very satisfying read on its own, but I sincerely hope that there are more books in this series to come because I became rather fond of Sean while I read his story, and unlike some of the other young adult spy/secret agent series Sean's story is very real and grounded. 

If you like this book then try:
  • Boy soldier by Andy McNab
  • The Rig by Joe Ducie
  • Sister assassin by Kiersten White
  • The recruit by Robert Muchamore
  • Legend by Marie Lu
  • Subject seven by James A. Moore
  • The industry by Rose Foster
  • Agent 21 by Chris Ryan
  • Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
  • Variant by Robison Wells
  • ACID by Emma Pass
  • Nearly gone by Elle Cosimano
  • Proxy by Alex London

Reviewed by Brilla