Saturday, July 29, 2017

Missing by Kelley Armstrong

Reeve's End is a small town that is content to be a small town, but every year teenagers leave in search of an education, a job, or a new life - and a good number of them never return.  Winter Crane is one of those planning to leave, she has her sights set firmly on medical school and works hard to get where she needs to be.  Getting good grades, working for the local doctor, and earning money tutoring are all part of the plan - finding a young man in the woods is definitely not part of the plan.  Lennon got himself in a spot of bother in the woods, and thanks to Winters quick thinking and medical skills he is on the mend - at least until he vanishes on her, leaving her with the knowledge that her friend is missing. 

Determined to find out what is happening in sleepy little Reeve's End, Winter starts investigating the kids that have left and never returned and makes a startling discovery along the way.  When Lennon's brother Jude arrives in town things get even more complicated - he is keeping secrets from Winter, and despite wanting her to share everything she knows, he is keeping secrets close to his chest.  When it appears that her sister may be one of the missing kids it gets really personal for Winter, and she is determined to discover what happened to her friend and to Lennon because it may lead her to what happened to Cady.  It won't be easy though, because someone is playing a deadly game with Winter and they are not afraid to make her permanently disappear to keep their secrets.  

I have read a lot of teen thrillers over the years and it takes a very skilled author to keep you hooked on the story while challenging you to figure out what is really happening - and Armstrong was a very skilled author indeed with Missing.  There are hints and clues through the story that point to different ideas and different suspects, and when you finally reach the very satisfying ending the clues all make sense and reward you for paying attention throughout the story.  That well crafted story is matched with characters that you really care about - Winter and Jude are a perfect balance for each other, and the other characters that come in and out of the story add their own parts without distracting or straying too far into the path of being a walking cliché.  

If you are looking for a solid thriller to read that is well crafted and well written then you pretty much can't go wrong with Missing.  I read this as an adult reader and thoroughly enjoyed it, so this is not one that only teens get to read and enjoy!  

If you like this book then try:
Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Jinx High by Mercedes Lackey

Jinx high is the third book in the Diana Tregarde series, but like the first two books Children of the night and Burning water, it can be read independently as the stories are quite separate.  

Something strange is happening in the small town of Jenks - apart from the alarmingly high number of students from the local high school who turn up dead in tragic circumstances.  So many have died, and there have been so many weird things happening that some people have taken to calling it Jinx High.  One of the students is Derek "Deke" Kestrel, who has found himself in the rather surprising position of being the boyfriend of the most popular girl in school.  Fay Harper is brave, bold, rich and not afraid to go after what she wants, and Deke is pretty content to go along for the ride - but when they are involved in a car accident that just doesn't make sense he starts to have the weird feeling that something isn't quire right.  Deke isn't the only one who feels that something isn't right, his dad Larry feels it too - but he knows just who to call on for help. 

When Larry reaches out to her Diana Tregarde is just wrapping up an author tour and is more than happy to spend time in Jenks checking out what has Larry worried - the fact she can go incognito as a visiting author for the honours English class is a bonus.  Diana doesn't know what to expect, but the last thing she would have expected was a powerful magic user who knows how to use Blood and Sex magic.  Someone has their hooks into Deke and the other students, and it is a real puzzle trying to figure out who.  Deke is blissfully unaware of the danger he is in, and he has no idea just how close the danger really is.  Finding a magic wielder is hard enough when they are covering their tracks - but through in teenage hormones, drugs, sex and rock and roll and you have a recipe for potential disaster.

I ran out of library books to read while I was on leave so decided to browse my own shelves for something to read and realised that I haven't read the Diana Tregarde series in a while - so I read the series from start to finish over the course of three days.  Like the other books in the series Jinx High can be read by itself, and it is a blend of urban fantasy and horror.  It is not my favourite in the series, but it is a solid read and has the added bonus of introducing us to one of the characters from her other series (the first time the SERRAted Edge books cross over with the world of the Guardians.  It is a shame there aren't more books in this series because it has a great grounding in the real world and has solid mythology that makes the world of the Guardians very believable.  One touch I love too is that all the books in the series have touches of other cultures which makes them more interesting than your standard "white man" magic story.

It may be tricky getting hold of the books in this series these days, but if you can get your hands on them and like authors like Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison and Tanya Huff then you are bound to enjoy them.

If you like this book then try:
  • Children of the night by Mercedes Lackey
  • Burning water by Mercedes Lackey
  • Blood price by Tanya Huff
  • Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff
  • Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway
  • Spiders bite by Jennifer Estep
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Angel's blood by Nalini Singh
  • Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara
  • Kitty and the midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Moon called by Patricia Briggs
  • Cry wolf by Patricia Briggs

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The girl in the ice by Robert Bryndza

Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster is still recovering, physically and emotionally, from a raid gone wrong when she is called in to be the lead on the case of a missing London socialite.  The missing person is young, beautiful, and rich, the daughter of a Lord who is not afraid to use his connections to get what he wants.  The case takes an immediate turn for the worse when the missing girls body is discovered, submerged in a frozen lake, on the same morning that Erika joins the team.  With the intense media interest, and pressure from the family to find the killer quickly it is all Erika can do to try and put the brakes on the investigation so that they investigate thoroughly without rushing to conclusions. 

When she finds herself on the wrong side of the victims family it soon becomes clear that Erika and her team are not looking for the while truth - the family wants a quick and tidy closure to the case that doesn't expose their dirty little secrets.  Determined to do the best job possible Erika continues to dig into the case, despite the mounting personal cost.  Blocked from access to the family she looks for answers to the questions that no one seems to want her to answer, and that puts her squarely in the cross hairs of the killer.  Erika has a reputation for getting the job done, but this time she might be fighting a losing battle.  The stakes have never been higher, because if she can't unravel the case the next victim might be Erika herself.

I have found books in the crime/thriller genres can be very hit and miss, especially when it comes to books set in the United Kingdom.  There are some brilliant authors out there writing British crime drama, and then there are some that I just can't get into - luckily The girl in the ice was one of the better ones.  There are some parts of the book that didn't flow as well as others, or seemed a touch too convenient, but it was a story that kept up the tension from start to finish and kept you guessing about who the killer was and why.  It is unusual for an author to be able to keep the pool of potential suspects so large right up until the end, and Bryndza kept the tension at just the right pace to keep you hooked and caring about what happened to the characters.  Apart from Erika the other characters are not particularly well defined, but that works for me, you discover more about the characters as you read the story which makes it more palatable and believable than if you get their full biographies at the start.

Like a lot of modern crime authors Bryndza has kept his chapters short and to the point, using chapters to move the action along without chopping and changing perspective constantly within the same chapter.  This was not the most polished read, but most authors in this genre take a few books to really polish their style, and there is a lot about the characters to like which means you don't really notice until you start comparing it to other reads.  A twisted and well thought out read that was well worth the time - especially the last 100 pages or so when the action and tension really ramps up as Erika closes in on the killer (and they close in on her).

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, July 21, 2017

Lost girls by Merrie Destefano

When Rachel wakes up in a ditch, half buried in leaves she has no memory of how she got there.  There is more than one day missing though - Rachel has an entire year of memories missing.  The last thing she remembers is falling asleep listening to music in her own bed, she has no memory of cutting and dying her hair, losing weight, or making the bold decision to have a completely black wardrobe.  She has no idea why she has changed so much, or why she has let go of so many of the things she used to love.  Her parents are trying to be understanding, but the strain of her being missing has taken a toll on everyone.  When she returns to school she is in for an even greater shock, because her bestfriend is now her former bestfriend, and her new friends as the popular kids.

Trying to deal with the memory loss is bad enough, but an FBI agent is also sniffing around, trying to get Rachel to tell him what happened - asking her about missing girls around her age, missing girls names and photos that stir some deeply buried memories.  When she discovers a box hidden in her wardrobe that implies she has gotten involved with the clubbing scene Rachel is even more confused, especially when her friends freak out when she tries to ask questions.  As Rachel tries to dig into her recent past she gets more and more confused, especially when she discovers that she can fight - really fight, and that some people seem afraid of her.  Rachel is running out of time to unravel the mystery of what happened to her, because she may have forgotten what happened, but the people who did it to her know exactly what happened and can make it happen again.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up Lost girls as the description was quite vague and it could have gone several different ways - from the weird to the gruesome, what it did was strike the perfect balance between thriller / crime / science fiction / coming of age genres to create a unique and intriguing read that is best enjoyed in one sitting.  Because of the way Lost girls unfolds it is challenging to review it without giving away some of the best secret plot points and twists that make this a truly unique and outstanding novel. 

There are a lot of elements here that make it perfect for high school reading assignments with themes of friendship, drug taking, social control, peer pressure, self discovery, and making mistakes.  Beyond the themes it is also a well written and absorbing work of fiction that is screaming out to be made into a movie or mini series as it would translate well to the screen.  While it is aimed at teenagers, it also makes a great read for adults.  Because of the themes in Lost girls this book is best suited to older teens or younger teens who can handle mature themes (or younger teens who have an older person they can talk to if the book raises any issues for them).  A great read from a new voice in young adult fiction.

If you like this book then try:
  • What waits in the woods by Kieran Scott
  • Killer instinct by S. E. Green
  • Bang by Barry Lyga
  • Holding smoke by Elle Cosimano
  • Nearly gone by Elle Cosimano
  • The stranger game by Cylin Busby
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Burning blue by Paul Griffin
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  •  by Laura WiessSuch a pretty girl
  • Hate list by Jennifer Brown
  • Dead to you by Lisa McMann
  • Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, July 3, 2017

Pretty fierce by Kieran Scott

Eighteen months ago Kaia's life changed forever - both her parents died while they were on a family holiday and Kaia returned to the United States to live with her grandparents.  The only bright spark in her life is her boyfriend, otherwise she lives a completely ordinary life ... and if you believe that then you have bought her cover story.  Kaia'a parents didn't die while on holiday, they died while they were on a mission.  Kaia and her parents have traveled the world, which sounds glamorous but the life of a professional assassins is both challenging and dangerous.  

The last year and a half have been painful and lonely, but they have also been quiet and uneventful.  All that is about to change because someone has just painted a big target on Kaia's back, forcing her to go on the run (with her completely unprepared boyfriend in tow).  Kaia has been keeping her real identity a secret, and it is something of a shock for Oliver to discover that Kaia is more than she appears - but to be fair so is he.  Life on the run is dangerous and exciting, but if Kaia can't solve the mystery of who is after them then she and Oliver may not live long enough to see who wants Kaia - and for what purpose.

Pretty fierce has been one of my favourite discoveries of 2017 for any age group and in any genre.  Kieran Scott has created two characters that you instantly click with, and a scenario that is just this side of too far-fetched.  It is not often that I find a book that sucks you in to the point that you resent interruptions, but Pretty fierce was one of those books.  This is a fast paced book with rapidly switching points of view which means Scott has been able to give Kaia and Oliver clear voices, and gives you a clear understanding of their thoughts / feelings / motivations without having to resort to the 'voice of God' third person narrative.  There are little moments and little secrets that feel very real and honest, and it isn't until you get near the end that you realise what is actually happening.  

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Scott's other book, What waits in the woods, and was a little worried that Pretty fierce would not be as good - but I was worried about nothing!  This is one of my top picks for young adult readers for 2017, it has the perfect blend of relatable characters and a storyline that keeps you hooked from start to finish.  Hopefully there are more great things to come from Scott as finding a niche in the increasingly crowded young adult novel market is getting harder and harder - an author that deserves to be discovered and shared because you don't know what a treat you are missing.  

If you like this book then try:
  • What waits in the woods by Kieran Scott
  • The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Killer instinct by S. E. Green
  • Lost girls by Merrie Destefano
  • Bang by Barry Lyga
  • Holding smoke by Elle Cosimano
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • Nearly gone by Elle Cosimano
  • NEED by Joelle Charbonneau
  • The naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • The stranger game by Cylin Busby
  • The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen
  • Remember by Eileen Cook
  • Burning blue by Paul Griffin

Reviewed by Brilla