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