Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hunting hour by Margaret Mizushima

Hunting hour is the third book in the Timber Creek K-9 mysteries, and while you can read it as a stand alone this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not already read Killing trail and Stalking ground.  I highly recommend reading the series in order.

Life with a police dog for a partner was never going to be easy for Deputy Mattie Lu Cobb, especially with a smart and dominant dog like Robo, but they have proven themselves time and again.  Earning the respect of her team is important to Mattie, but that respect is sliding into concern because Mattie is not at the top of her game.  Memories buried long ago in her past have been stirred up by her brother reaching out and contacting her, and those memories are making it hard for her to function.  She isn't sleeping well, isn't eating well, and she is distracted enough that it is affecting her working relationship with Robo.  Worst of all, her colleagues have noticed the change and are challenging her about her behaviour and health.

The distraction couldn't have come at a worse time, because a young girl has gone missing from one of the local schools, and the team needs Robo and his nose to find her.  When he does find her, they are too late to save her, and it hits Mattie hard that they have lost another child from their community - and there are aspects of the case that stir up her memories and make it challenging for Mattie to remain objective and focused.  The death is a tragedy for the community, but Mattie is able to keep some professional distance.  When veterinarian Cole Walker reaches out to let her know that one of his daughters is missing it leaves Mattie reeling in shock, and sends her into overdrive to find the kidnapper before the unthinkable happens and the community loses another child.  This case will stretch Mattie to the limit and may push her over the edge.

The Timber Creek K-9 mysteries series has been a delightful surprise, not only for myself but also for my elderly mother.  The characters are relatable and engaging, and the relationships between all the characters bring the series to life and help you feel truly connected to the series.  I picked up the first book in the series because I was wanting books about working dogs and their human partners, and I have continued to read the series because of how well the relationship is portrayed between Mattie and Robo, but also because Mizushima has written characters that you really connect with and care about - and more importantly, with each new book in the series we add more layers and background to each character, which makes them even more familiar and comfortable. 

I did have an inkling quite early one about who the person involved was, but it didn't stop me enjoying the book, and there were quite a few times when I wondered if I had actually figured it out or not!  This is a great series if you like mysteries that have relatable and realistic characters.  Mizushima doesn't try to be too clever, and she has a nice writing style that gives you the bones of the story and enough detail to keep it interesting, without bogging you down with superfluous details.  Hopefully there are many more books in this series to come, although with a small town like Timber Creek there may not be that many more people Mizushima can kill off!

One of the challenges of reviewing this series is that there are little twists and turns that I want other readers to discover for themselves rather than me spoiling them - so a little lighter review than normal but I still highly recommend this series.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rituals by Kelley Armstrong

Rituals is the fourth and final book in the Cainsville 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 read the rest of the series before you read anymore of this review.

Olivia Jones has multiple names and identities - and not all by choice.  For some she is Olivia Taylor-Jones, the daughter of a wealthy family who sadly lost her father but gained a suitably large trust fund.  No one partiocularly special, but also not someone easily forgotten.  For others she is Eden Larsen, the daughter or two serial killers who are serving life sentences in prison.  To those closest to her though, she is simply Liv - something she is determined to cling to, especially when it seems as though everyone wants something from her.  

With the Tylwyth Teg and Cwn Annwn both determined to win her over to their side it seems inevitable that someone is going to get hurt - especially with so much at stake.  Determined to stop the past from repeating itself Liv fights to hold onto the relationships that mean the most to her - especially Ricky and Gabriel.  As their final chapter approaches Liv is going to have to make a choice, and if she doesn't make the right one then it could mean the end for either the Tylwyth Teg or the Cwn Annwn.  What Liv doesn't know is that there is another player in town, one who has plans of their own and is determined to stop Liv from making the wrong choice - the wrong choice as far as they are concerned anyway.  The final choice is coming, and if Liv gets it wrong she could lose everything.

Rituals is the final book in the Cainsville series and it was a very satisfying end to what has turned out to be an exceptional series.  There are some delightful twists and turns in this final installment in the series, and one of the most frustrating thing about reviewing this book is trying to give it a good review without spoiling the surprises!  From the start it has been clear that the Cainsville series is a sweeping urban fantasy that takes elements of mythology and shapes them into a series that is both completely engrossing and also believable and grounded (not an easy feat for an urban fantasy with a very healthy dose of the supernatural).  

Kelley Armstrong has created characters that you connect with and care about - even if trying to figure out the pronunciation of some of the Welsh words was a bit of a challenge!   Finding a series that can keep you hooked when each book is more than 400 pages is no simple feat, and while I was satisfied with the ending of the series I feel a little bereft knowing that there won't be another book in the series (that's how well this world was written).  Hopefully there will be more books from Armstrong in a similar vein in the future because it was a very good series and created a nice niche for itself in the urban fantasy genre.

 If you like this book then try:
  • Omens by Kelley Armstrong
  • Visions by Kelley Armstrong
  • Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong
  • Summon the keeper by Tanya Huff
  • Night shifted by Cassie Alexander
  • Eight million gods by Wen Spencer
  • Dark descendant by Jenna Black
  • Moon called by Patricia Briggs
  • Spiders bite by Jennifer Estep
  • Prowlers by Christopher Golden
  • Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Blood price by Tanya Huff
  • Kitty and the midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Children of the night by Mercedes Lackey
  • Alien taste by Wen Spencer
  • Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara

Reviewed by Brilla

Good me bad me by Ali Land

Annie made the difficult decision to report her mother to the Police, and now she has to live with the consequences.  Her mother is locked up and awaiting trial for the murder of several children, and Annie is living with a new family under a new name.  Milly has the chance for a semi normal life, something she had never had and could never have as Annie, but her new life is far from perfect.  The years spent in her mothers 'loving' care have left Annie with physical and emotional scars that she can't shed as easily as her name, and while Milly is a fresh start there are echoes of Annie that keep getting in the way.  

It doesn't help that her foster father is also a psychologist who has been tasked with helping prepare Milly for trial, which means she spends a lot of time with him - making her foster sister Phoebe jealous and downright nasty.  Despite all her best intentions Milly keeps getting flashes of Annie, and along with Annie flashes of her mother and what really happened in the house she grew up in.  Everyone thinks that Annie was brave to reach out to the Police, and while she has to keep secrets as Milly she also has the chance to build a new life for herself - a new future.  Milly is keeping secrets though, secrets that Annie would approve of - and so would her mother.  As the court case draws nearer, Annie will have to decide if she truly embrace her new life as Milly, or if Annie is here to stay.

Good me bad me popped up on a recommended books list from the library and the blurb was so intriguing that I had to pick it up - mainly because I enjoy reading fiction that challenges you to confront human nature and what people are capable of when they are pushed, and the damage that can be done to people when they are abused / neglected / twisted by their upbringing.  I was not disappointed by Good me bad me, even if it was a slightly unusual writing style that took a little while to settle into.  Once I was settled in and got used to the style I was hooked!

This book would make a very interesting movie or televised drama, mainly because each of the characters have such a strong presence in the book - everyone has secrets and everyone has things that come out as the story progresses.  There is so much going on that at times it feels like the story moves at breakneck pace, and then just when you need it things slow down again (a rather nifty writing trick that keeps you hooked into the story).  Once I finished I gave the book to my mother to read and she also thoroughly enjoyed reading the book too - and while we have similar tastes when it comes to crime it is unusual to find a book we both like as much as we both liked Good me bad me.  It will be interesting to see if Land is able to write more books of this caliber.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The dolls by James Patterson and Kecia Bal

Lana Wallace, an investigative reporter, has just moved from Chicago to Boston.  It's a change of location and a change of focus, as she moves from being a crime reporter to a business reporter.  It's not so easy to leave her previous career behind though, as a breaking story has everyone on their toes - two wealthy business men have been found murdered and there is no sign of the murderer.

Drawn into investigating the case, Lana soon discovers that there is much more to the story than meets the eye.  As she digs deeper she discovers the world of dolls, incredibly life like robots that will do anything their owners tell them to - and it appears that their owners purchased them for one main reason, sexual pleasure.  Can Lana use her skills as a reporter to get to the bottom of the case - before it's too late?

This is another intriguing and expertly written Bookshot that I had to read in one sitting because I did not want to put it down.  While the idea of a 'sex bot' is somewhat cliché in the science fiction genre, recent leaps in AI have shown just how lifelike robots can be now, and how open they are to abuse already.  There are some interesting moral topics raised in this story too - like do you have to be human to have human rights?

A great read, and hopefully there are more Bookshots from Patterson and Bal as they have a seamless style and a good grasp of what makes you connect with, and care about the characters.  This is no cliché riddled, corny science fiction novella - it is a tensely written thriller that could have come from the headlines, and makes you wonder if just because they could, should they have?

If you like this book then try:
  • Private Royals by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • 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
  • Let's play make-believe by James Patterson and James O. Born
  • The house husband by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski
  • The witnesses by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois
  • The end by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois
  • After the end by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois

Reviewed by Brilla

I know a secret by Tess Gerritsen

I know a secret is the twelfth book in the Rizzoli and Isles series, and while you can read it as a stand alone novel, you will enjoy the book more if you read the series in order.  This review contains ***SPOILERS*** about the series, so if you have not read the other books in the series I suggest you do before reading anymore of this review.

Holly has just attended the funeral of one of the children who rode the bus with her after school on the way to their after school care programme.  Her death was a tragedy, she fell asleep and died in a fire, her husband overseas on one of his many business trips.  It's a tragedy for her family, but people die in accidents everyday.  When another one of the children who rode that same bus is also found dead, this time obviously murdered, Holly starts to wonder and worry about what might be happening.  Holly is keeping secrets, and she is very good at keeping them - but she may not be able to hide from the past.

Detectives Rizzoli and Frost are used to some pretty gruesome murder scenes, but the death of Cassandra Coyle is not only gruesome but also bizarre.  The body has clearly been mutilated post mortem, but there are no obvious signs of murder.  Even with the body in the hands of medical examiner Doctor Maura Isles, there is no clear cause of death - until Isles makes a startling discovery.  Shortly after the death of Cassandra Coyle, they discover another body, obviously the victim of the same killer.  As they become more involved in the case it becomes clear that there is more than just two victims, and that they are dealing with a very clever killer.  As they struggle to find the killer, Rizzoli and Isles are also distracted by personal lives that seem determined to drive them crazy.

Each time I hear that there is a new book in the Rizzoli and Isles series I can't help but wonder what thrill ride Tess Gerritsen is going to take us on next, and what twisted little devious route she will take to get there.  Some books in the series have been outstanding and memorable, some have been more mediocre - in the case of I know a secret I have to unfortunately put it at the mediocre end of the scale, mostly because I guessed quite a few of the large plot points before they were revealed.  Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad book, I just found it more predictable that it should be.

It does feel as though Gerritsen has taken the chance to tie off some loose ends with I know a secret, and taken the chance to open up some new opportunities for the characters.  This is a great series, and while this book was not one of the strongest ones in the series it was a solid read and adds to the world view for the series.  Here's hoping the next book in the series is a stronger addition to the series and a little less predictable - that said though, considering the amount of crime I read it is not surprising that I saw some of it coming!

If you like this book then try:
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • The apprentice by Tess Gerritsen
  • The silent girl by Tess Gerritsen
  • Last to die by Tess Gerritsen
  • Without trace by Simon Booker
  • The postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • Regina's song by David and Leigh Eddings
  • Look behind you by Sibel Hodge
  • Kill switch by Neal Baer & Jonathan Greene
  • The girl in the ice by Robert Bryndza
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • Now you see her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarratano
  • Dead secret by Ava McCarthy
  • One step too far by Tina Seskis
  • I've got you under my skin by Mary Higgins Clark
  • The survivors club by Lisa Gardner
  • The edge of normal by Carla Norton
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Suspect by Robert Crais

Nine months ago LAPD police officer Scott James is sitting in his patrol car with his partner Stephanie, nothing on their minds except enjoying one of their last patrols together before Scott joins LAPD's Metro Division.  The night is quiet and relatively monotonous until a Bentley sedan (way too fancy for the neighborhood they are in) sales quietly into the intersection by their squad car - and straight into an ambush.  In just a few moments the car is hit by a hail of bullets, the people in the car are dead, and Scott is desperately trying to reach help as Stephanie slowly bleeds out on the pavement.  

Flash forward nine months and while his physical injuries are on the mend Scott is still dealing with the trauma of losing his partner, and trying to repair the gaping holes in his memory of that night.  No longer fit for service on the front lines he refuses a medical discharge and finds himself within the ranks of the K-9 handlers, a highly sought after position and his presence is resented by some inside the team and out.  Scott may have managed to stay in the game for now, but staying in the game for the long term means finding a way to work with a canine partner and passing the high bar set by his new commanding officer Sergeant Leland.  Everything he wants to do, everything he wants to become depends on what Leland thinks he can and can not do.

Being offered his first dog is the first step to becoming a real K-9 officer, but he is not drawn towards the well trained and eager dog he is offered - he is instead drawn to German shepherd that has almost as many issues as he does.  Maggie was trained as a marine corp dog and she did her job with energy and enthusiasm, detecting IEDs and explosives, and protecting her pack.  When her unit was ambushed Maggie was injured and no longer fit for service, and her new path led her to the police and Scott.  Scott may not be her pack, but over time she starts to understand this man who is injured like she is, and when he goes in pursuit of the people who hurt him and killed his partner she is right by his side and ready to do what she was trained to do.

After reading a few books about working dogs and police dogs over the past year, particularly in the past few weeks, I went on a bit of a book bender and ordered all the books my local library had that seemed to be about working dog partnerships.  Suspect was one of the ones that I picked up and actually got into (some of the others were trying to be too cute or missed the point), and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Scott and Maggie.  The experiences of both of them were traumatic, and there is a certain amount of poetry in the fact they found each other, and that they were able to help each other heal enough that they could work together.  At the end of the book the author fully acknowledges that he took some artistic licence with his portrayal of PTSD in both man and dog, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this is a book that portrays the working relationship between police officer and police dog very well.

If you like this book then try:

  • Breaking Creed by Alex Kava
  • Silent Creed by Alex Kava
  • Stalking ground by Margaret Mizushima
  • Without trace by Simon Booker
  • Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
  • I've got you under my skin by Mary Higgins Clark
  • City of fear by Alafair Burke
  • Murder past due by Miranda James
  • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarratano
  • I, Michael Bennett by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Kill switch by Neal Baer & Jonathan Greene
  • Kill me if you can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, October 9, 2017

Stalking ground by Margaret Mizushima

Stalking ground is the second book in the Timber Creek K-9 mysteries, and while you can read it as a stand alone this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not already read Killing trail.  I highly recommend reading the series in order.

Life has settled into a routine for Deputy Mattie Lu Cobb and her police dog Robo, they are finding their rhythm and gaining the mutual trust that makes K-9 teams so effective - she has also gained the somewhat grudging respect of some of her male colleagues.  That respect is put to the test when she is called back early from a working weekend away to help search for the girlfriend of a fellow officer.  They all hope that she will be found alive, but when her body is found they make the startling discovery that she was murdered. 

With her colleague in shock it is up to Mattie to secure the crime scene, with Robo at her side to protect the scene, and to protect Mattie too.  As they start investigating the crime it becomes clear that Adrienne Howard was keeping secrets, and that her carefree spirit came from a childhood that was anything but free and happy.  As they learn more about her past and where she came from the number of potential suspects grows, but as they move through them it feels like something is missing.  As Mattie and her team struggle to find answers the clock is ticking and they don't know who the next target will be. 

Meanwhile, veterinarian Cole Walker is struggling to come to terms with his own challenges - never mind his growing feelings for a certain dog handling deputy.  At home Angela is acting out and causing problems for their new house keeper, and on the professional front he is dealing with a mystery ailment that has struck down a race horse and threatens other horses at the stable.  The owner seems helpful and interesting in getting the horse better, but she also seems very interested in Cole and his personal life which makes him more than a little uncomfortable.  Can Cole solve the mystery and save the horses? 

This series has been a delightful surprise and has lead me into reading other books about handlers and their working dogs as I look for something equally satisfying.  Mizushima has an easy to read style that lets you drop into the world of Mattie and Cole without fuss, and moves along at a steady pace that keeps you hooked without making you feel like she is rushing along or dragging her heels.  One of the most enjoyable aspects is that she shares the limelight for her characters so that it feels like a well rounded world view, that you are getting to know all the people in Mattie's world rather than just Mattie.  You can tell that she knows what she is taking about with dogs and the veterinary practice Cole runs - it adds an authenticity and weight to the story.

One of the challenges of reviewing this series is that there are little twists and turns that I want other readers to discover for themselves rather than me spoiling them - so a little lighter review than normal but I still highly recommend this series.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Tower of dawn by Sarah J. Maas

Tower of dawn is set in the Throne of glass world, and falls after the events in Empire of storms and before the seventh book in the series.  You can read Tower of dawn as a stand alone, but it (and this review) contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the other books in the series.  It is highly recommended that you read this series in order so read the other books before reading Tower of dawn.

It seems as though no one who has crossed paths with Aelin Galathynius ever comes away unscathed - not even her allies.  Chaol, reluctant Lord of Westfall has sailed to the city of Antica to seek out the Khagan as a potential ally - but also to seek out the famed healers of the Torre Cesme.  It is difficult to see which is more pressing, gaining support from the Khagan and his vast armies, or seeking help from the Torre to heal the injuries Chaol suffered in Rifthold.  With Nesryn at his side Chaol is prepared to beg, but when they arrive they discover that a member of the ruling family has died and the grief weighs heavily upon the family.  With the Khagan avoiding him Chaol hopes to attempt his healing, but the healer the Torre sends is hostile and reluctant to help the man who represents the hate, pain, and loss of the land she left behind.

Yrene came to Antica to learn how to use her healing powers, the very powers that marked her mother for death at the hands of the King of Adarlan - the very king that Chaol served loyally as the Captain of the Guard.  It takes all of her will to be professional and attempt to heal the young Lord, but the darkness she finds within his injury is like nothing she has ever encountered - it seems almost aware and alive.  When attempts to heal Chaol lead her into danger it becomes clear that there is more at stake than whether he will walk again.  Walking a knife's edge with the Khagan and his family, Chaol is feeling increasingly desperate to gain support for the war building on the horizon, and it seems as though fate is determined to stop him from succeeding.  When their enemy makes a bold move Chaol and Nesryn discover just how deep the darkness goes - but will it be enough to gain the support of the Khagan for their cause?

I have been looking forward to the next book in the Throne of glass series since reading Empire of storms, and while I was a little disappointed to find out this was a novel set in the world rather than the 'next book in the series' I wasn't disappointed for long!  After reading Tower of dawn I can see why it was a standalone novel slotted in between the fifth and seventh books as it adds a layer of background and understanding that would have been lost in the main storyline or come across as awkward or rushed if it had been crammed into a few chapters.  Chaol is an interesting character and while he is one of the main characters, his story has been pushed to the side a little in the other books because the focus has been on Aelin and Dorian (understandably) so to have a novel dedicated to him and his story was a real treat, as well as a valuable part of understanding the Throne of glass world and what is coming.

This is one of those books that you really should try and read in one sitting - not only because it deserves to be read in one sitting, but also because I had to wait to read the last 60 or so pages and it was torture because the story was building to something and then I had to stop for work!  I have not been shy about praising Sarah J. Maas for her writing, mainly because she doesn't shy away from topics that other writers avoid, and this time was no different with Chaol facing what can only be described as PTSD, as does the healer Yrene.  As she has many times, Maas has brought to life a topic that is often shied away from not only in literature, but also in life, and she has given a voice and provided an understanding of people who have faced trauma in their lives.  For many of her readers it may not have been war or the murder of a parent by soldiers, but teenagers and adults who have faced abuse or violence will find echoes of their emotions and self doubts, along with the anger and coping mechanisms of people who have lived through trauma. 

Maas doesn't baby her readers, and that respect for her readers makes me love this series even more - even if school librarians don't know quite where to put her books because they have sex scenes.  Now all we have to do is wait for 2018 so we can see what is next for the Throne of glass world.

Throne of glass series:

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Haunted by James Patterson and James O. Born

Haunted is the tenth book in the Michael Bennett series, and while they can be read independently you get the most enjoyment out of the series when you read them in order.  This review contains series ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the entire series.  I highly recommend that you read the series in order, starting with Step on a crack.

Life is never easy for a New York detective, but when you are Michael Bennett it also seems like you never get a break.  Throwing himself into his work is a good way to forget about the drama at home, but when you are a cop and one of your children is awaiting trial for selling drugs 'tough' doesn't begin to cover it.  He knows his son is a good kid, but for everyone else Brian is a prime target for being made an example of.  While trying to find answers is one way of dealing with his problems it also keeps him away from his family and puts him in danger.  Bennett is determined to get the drug dealers off the streets and save his son, but how do you stop a crime wave of school children dealers and enforcers?

When a family vacation in a small town in Maine falls in his lap it seems like the fates are aligning to give him a much needed break - but he should have realised his life is never that easy.  The house in Maine is old and has plenty of room, not to mention a private lake where the kids can swim and play, but the town also has a very familiar feeling problem.  There is a drug dealer in town that local detective, and his former partner, is trying to stop.  Drawn into the case, Michael finds himself caught up in more than just the crime - there is a young woman who lives on the charity of the community sometimes, and the rest of the time is homeless.  She has information that can help their case, but the cost of getting that information may be higher than Bennett is willing to pay.

I was surprised to discover that this latest book in the Michael Bennett series was not written by Patterson and Ledwidge - and I have to confess that I found it lacked something, a spark, and I am not sure if I felt that way because it really lacked it, or if it was psychosomatic because of the missing name!  The story line was solid, the characters were good, but it lacked the spark and humour that are the usual hallmarks of a Michael Bennett story.  A good read, but not the best.  Hopefully Ledwidge is back for the next book, or that Patterson and Born can up the chemistry for a more 'typical' Bennett thriller.

If you like this book then try:
  • Step on a crack by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Run for your life by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Worst case by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Tick tock by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • I, Michael Bennett by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Gone by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Burn by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Alert by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Bullseye by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • The apprentice by Tess Gerritsen
  • Kill switch by Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene
  • NYPD Red by James Patterson and Marshall Karp
  • Kill me if you can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

Reviewed by Brilla