Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The First Lady by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois

When you're campaigning to become the President of the United States of America for a second term the last thing you need is a scandal, but that's exactly what President Tucker is facing.  Caught red handed cheating on his wife, the only hope he has is that the First Lady will stand by his side and gracefully forgive him so the campaign can continue., as so many First Ladies have done in the past.  Banking on her cooperation, the President is shocked when Grace Tucker doesn't play ball - but there are other players involved with this game, and not all of them play by the same rules when a presidential campaign is involved.

When it becomes clear that the First Lady has gone missing it is up to Secret Service Agent Sally Grissom is responsible for the safety of the President and First Lady, but her team is not trained or equipped to deal with a missing persons case - especially not when hobbled with so many restrictions.  As she tries to find the First Lady it becomes clear that there is more to the story than she thought, and that if things go wrong her whole team will be thrown into the cogs of the ruthless machine that is politics.  

Washington D.C. is full of secrets, and some of those secrets can be deadly, especially when there are people who will stop at nothing to get what they want.  Agent Grissom has just one shot at saving not only the First Lady, but also her career and life.  As the faint trail of breadcrumbs becomes clearer, and as she gets closer to the truth, the danger level grows and the consequences of a mistake could be fatal.  

The First Lady is another brilliant collaboration between James Patterson and Brendan DuBois who have written some of my favourite Bookshots.  This is a political thriller that has multiple layers of secrets and players, people who are more than happy to fight dirty to get what they want no matter what the cost, and people who are desperate enough to throw everything they have at a fight to make sure they don't lose.  This was a well written thrill ride that was thoroughly enjoyed in one sitting, and fingers crossed that Patterson and DuBois collaborate on another full length novel soon!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Burning ridge by Margaret Mizushima

Burning ridge is the fourth 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, Stalking ground and Hunting hour.  I highly recommend reading the series in order.

Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo are a well oiled team, providing support for their fellow officers.  With each passing day their partnership deepens, and Mattie is constantly working with Robo to broaden his skills and experience.  When the local vet Cole Walker and his family find the partial remains of a person while they're in the mountains Mattie and Robo are part of the team called in to help find the rest of the body she has no idea that the case is about to get deeply personal - because Mattie knows the victim.

Working in a small town is always a challenge for the police because it's hard not to get involved in the lives of your community, and when a ghastly crime occurs it's difficult not to look at everyone with suspicion.  As the team works to untangle the mystery of the recently diseased, they make the startling discovery that the body has company - the remains of several people who were also likely murdered many years before.  As Mattie fights to stay involved with the case she also struggles to cope with the memories of her past that keep surfacing, making her feel unbalanced and adding to her stress levels.  As the suspects are slowly cleared Mattie has no idea that the killer is closer than she knows - and that they have plans for Mattie.

The Timber Creek K-9 mysteries have been a delightful find, not only because they are well written mysteries with twists and turns that keep the story interesting and challenging to solve, but also because of how well rendered the human and animal characters are.  With each book in the series we see new layers for each of the characters, and with each book Margaret Mizushima grows in her confidence with giving those characters more layers and depth.  With this fourth book in the series it feels like Mizushima has reached her full stride, her characters and stories meeting on an equal playing field and I can't wait to see what is next for Mattie as her personal story is starting to reveal hidden depths that will add to her character and the other characters around her.  This is a great series, and one of the few that my mother and I both read avidly.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The bartered brides by Mercedes Lackey

The bartered brides is the thirteenth book in the Elemental masters series and while it can be read as a stand alone novel it is best enjoyed when you read the series in order - or if you at least read A study in sable and A scandal in Battersea first.

Life is never boring for friends Nan Killian and Sarah Lyon-White as their connections to the world of elemental magicians means there is always some sort of adventure around the corner that needs their skills.  Having Suki join their little family has lead to some semblance of a comfortable and settled life, but that is shattered with the news that their friend and associate, the great Sherlock Holmes himself, is dead.  The only consolation is that he took Professor Moriarty down with him, but that still leaves some of Moriarty's associates loose in the world intent on revenge against the friends of Sherlock Holmes.

When someone makes a bold move again their small family Nan and Sarah make the difficult decision to send Suki off to the safety of the School - a smart move as they soon find themselves tangled up in a very strange case.  The body of a young woman has washed up wearing a white dress and missing her head, and she is soon followed by another.  As Sarah, Nan and the Watson's dig deeper into the case they realise that a very dark and dangerous power is growing on the streets of London - a Necromancer who has power of the dead.  It will be a race against time to stop the Necromancer before they can complete their task, because they are planning the unthinkable and don't care how many lives they spend to do it.

This is an interesting addition to the Elemental Masters universe as unlike most of the other books in the series there is no clear traditional tale that provides a framework for the story - other than the inclusion yet again of Sherlock Holmes and John and Mary Watson.  Despite that departure from what has become a tradition for the series this was a very welcome addition, not in the least because it provides more information about some of the characters and lays the foundations for future storylines.  Lots of fun to read and I can't wait to see where the series goes next.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong

Three years ago Skye Gilchrist got the devastating news that her older brother Luka was killed during a school shooting, and that he was one of the shooters and not one of the victims.  That simple fact shattered Skye's world and sent her family scrambling from the small town they lived in, hoping to escape the stigma and the pain.  They should have known better, no matter where they moved to people eventually figured it out - and once they did Skye usually bore the brunt of their disgust and anger.  Now Skye is about to face her worst nightmare - she has to return home because her mother and grandmother are no longer able to look after her.  

Moving in with her Aunt Mae has it's challenges, the least of which is that she never seems to be home because of her long work schedule.  Moving back to her home town means seeing people she hasn't seen in three years, people who look at her and see what her brother did.  The one silver lining is that her former bestfriend Jesse doesn't go to her new high school, he goes to another school which means she shouldn't have to face the fact her brother killed his brother and he hates her for it.  She plans to just fly under the radar, but that changes when she discovers that Jesse is at her new school - something that seems to be a shock for both of them.  To make matters worse little things keep happening that make Skye look like she is a liar, or worse, crazy.  If she can't get to the bottom of the mystery she may have no future.

Aftermath is one of those books that you connect with straight away because of the characters and how well they are written.  Straight away you feel what Skye went through, the bright bursts of happiness and the gut wrenching lose.  The flipside of the coin in Jesse, and it is just as easy to connect with him, even though at first you may not want to because of how strongly your view is painted by how Skye feels about him.  The strength of the characters is supported by a mystery that slowly unravels, keeping you hooked from the first line to the last.  At first you think that Skye might be crazy (and who would blame her for going crazy), but over time you come to realise there might actually be more to the story.

I loved Missing by Kelley Armstrong and was hoping that Aftermath would be equally good and I was not disappointed.  This is a solidly written thriller that may be aimed at teenagers but was equally good being read as an adult thriller - there is a lot to like and nothing to hate.  Hopefully Armstrong continues to write teen thrillers as she does them very very well.

If you like this book then try:
Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, October 22, 2018

Flesh and blood by Nigel McCrery

Flesh and blood is the fifth book in the DCI Lapslie series so there are ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the other books in the series.  You can read this book as a standalone but you may find it confusing without the background from the other books in the series.  I highly recommend reading this series in order.

There is nothing that shakes the confidence of a police officer more than having a defense lawyer make a fool of them on the stand and set their client free, and for DCI Mark Lapslie that is exactly what happens in the case of Alastair Tulley.  Instead of the case being about the rather gruesome evidence of a young boys severed arm found in Tulley's home, it becomes about Lapslie and his medical condition which lead to some unconventional police work.  Licking his wounds and angry about the process, and if he's honest himself, Lapslie throws himself back into his police work with little grace.  He doesn't have to wait long for another boy to go missing and when the evidence leads to a new suspect it seems as though Tulley is in the clear, but something doesn't feel right to Lapslie and his team.

Josie Dallyn may be young, but she is already a dedicated journalist and when she has the chance to uncover more information about a story she doesn't hesitate to follow up and in the process nearly ends up a victim of a serious crime.  Escaping was just the start, because some people may think she is paranoid, but she knows she has stumbled onto a big story, and the more she digs the more she discovers about the links between cases.  Josie is not the only person looking into the disappearances of young boys, and it soon becomes clear that the disappearances aren't random, and that they are not limited to a small area.  Can Josie, Lapslie, and the other researchers connect the dots before it's too late?

This was one of the more interesting and involved storylines for this series and in a way it was a shame that the timeline bounced around so much as I sometimes got distracted or hand to go back and check dates to see where I was in the timeline.  I get that it is a writers technique to move between time periods quickly, but I feel that it let the story down a little as it took away the smoothness and took some of the edge out of the story as it got a little convoluted.  The over all story was amazing and was not what I was expecting, and the ending was pretty great and closed things off nicely without being too neat, and it was a challenge to try and solve the mystery before the end and I have to take my hat off to Nigel McCrery for writing a complex and engrossing story that was utterly believable and terrifying.

The characters are continuing to evolve and now in the fifth novel we see some new and interesting characters that compliment the main people - as well as some interesting developments with existing characters.  You can tell that McCrery has a background of writing for television because the chapters are short and punchy, and the action is well paced to keep you interested without moving so fast that you can't keep up.  This is a compliment as some of the best writers at the moment are using this style and you can't help but draw comparisons to writers such as James Patterson and M.J. Arlidge.  Now I just have to wait for the next book in the series!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, October 18, 2018

There's a baddie running through this book by Shelly Unwin; illustrated by Vivienne To

There's a baddie running through this book.
Turn the pages, have a look!
There he goes, did you see?
Sound your siren, chase with me.

There's a baddie running through this book is a fast paced book that cries out to be shared with a group of children or one-on-one.  The main character is a racoon who oozes charm and cheek, racing through the book stealing things as they go.  The other characters join in the chase to try and stop the racoon, not an easy thing when you are quick and nimble - but maybe one last step is a step too far for this slippery little character.

There are loads of concepts here to enjoy with anthropomorphic characters that young children will recognise and connect with, along with some great language to help develop vocabularies with little ones.  The book is charming and quirky, and bound to become a firm favourite for younger children who will enjoy the pace and bounce of the story, and older children will enjoy the different characters and enjoy discovering all the little treasures within the illustrations.  

A great ANZAC book with the author living in Australia and the illustrator living in New Zealand.  Hopefully we will see more collaborations from their two artists as they have made an amazing  book.

If you like this book then try:
  • Diary of a wombat by Jackie French; illustrated by Bruce Whatley
  • This book just ate my dog! by Richard Byrne
  • If I had a raptor by George O'Connor
  • Barnaby Bennett by Hannah Rainforth; illustrated by Ali Teo
  • Elephants cannot dance! by Mo Willems
  • Wait! No paint! by Bruce Whately
  • I need my monster by Amanda Noll; illustrated by Howard McWilliam
  • Giggle, giggle, quack by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Betsy Lewin
  • Cushie Butterfield (she's a little cow) by Colin McNaughton
  • Don't push the button! by Bill Cotter

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, October 14, 2018

We don't eat our classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Penelope Rex was nervous.  It's not every day a little T. rex starts school.

It's not easy starting school, especially when you're a T. rex!  Penelope has everything she needs for her first day of school including a special backpack with ponies on it (ponies are delicious), and she has 300 tuna sandwiches for her first school lunch - but she wants to know who her classmates will be (this is very important).  

On her first day she discovers that her classmates are children!  Penelope is surprised at first, but then she eats them - because children are delicious.  Luckily her teacher tells her to spit the children out because you shouldn't eat your classmates.  Penelope tries to make up for her actions, but things go from bad to worse and she starts to feel very lonely.  She tries and tries to be good and make friends - but nothing works until she gets a taste of her own medicine.

This is one of those rare laugh out loud picture books that will appeal to the adults reading the story as much as the children listening.  This book can be shared one-on-one, but would also work well being read to a group.  Penelope is a lovable and slightly tragic character, and children will be able to relate to her very well as starting school can be very challenging for children.  The illustrations are charming, and the ridiculous idea of a T. rex going to school with human children made me smile the whole way through.  

If you like this book then try:
  • If I had a raptor by George O'Connor
  • Elephants cannot dance! by Mo Willems
  • I need my monster by Amanda Noll; illustrated by Howard McWilliam
  • Don't push the button! by Bill Cotter
  • Diary of a wombat by Jackie French; illustrated by Bruce Whatley
  • This book just ate my dog! by Richard Byrne
  • A is for musk ox by Erin Cabatingan & Matthew Myers
  • No T.Rex in the library by Toni Buzzeo; ilustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa
  • Click, clack, moo: Cows that type by Doreen Cronin
  • I am not a worm! by Scott Tulloch
  • Tadpole's promise by Jeanne Willis; illustrated by Tony Ross

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Juror no. 3 by James Patterson and Nancy Allen

Ruby Bozarth is a freshly minted lawyer trying to start out in small town Rosedale, Mississippi which is no easy task - especially when she finds herself assigned to represent a man accused of murder.  From the start the odds are stacked against her - she's young, she's female, and most of all the town is sure he's guilty.  The young woman who was murdered was from a well-to-do family a real socialite who was well known and apparently universally loved by all.  The accused is a young black man kicked out of college and returned to town in disgrace.  It's going to be an uphill battle to keep him out of jail because how can a man get a fair trial when everyone knows he did it?

As if one tough case isn't enough, Ruby finds herself fighting another seemingly open and shut case when someone she knows is accused of murder in rather sordid circumstances.  Fighting for someone's life in court is never easy, especially when the accused seems intent on not helping themselves.  As she digs deeper into the case it seems as though everyone is keeping secrets, and the last thing you need as a lawyer is a client keeping secrets - especially when you can't rely on witnesses either.  As the story plays out on the witness stand Ruby learns more about how the dance between prosecution and defence works - and just how dangerous practicing law in the good old state of Mississippi really can be.

It is always interesting to pick up a book by James Patterson with a new co-author as you never know what you are going to get - sometimes it's brilliant, sometimes it good, and sometimes it's not so great.  I wasn't sure what to expect with Juror no. 3 as none of the books I've read by Patterson and Co. before have ventured so much into the courtroom, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was very readable and showed a part of the crime genre that I haven't really found before.  There are times when the legal jargon gets a little annoying, but it's a minuscule part of the story and you can puzzle out what they are referring to from the context - but I guess that makes it more realistic anyway.

There are some great characters here, and in some ways it feels like it might have started as a Booskshots concept because it is two storylines woven together into one story.  Ruby is a great character, as are the people around her, and while this can be read as a standalone it would be nice to reconnect with Ruby and the town, because any town that has old blood like Rosedale is bound to have secrets and scandals that can be explored in a court of law.

If you like this book then try:
  • The shut-in by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski
  • Heist by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • 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
  • Airport code red by James Patterson and Michael White
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • City of the lost by Kelley Armstrong
  • Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
  • What was mine by Helen Klein Ross
  • Good me bad me by Ali Land
  • The edge of normal by Carla Norton

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The thirteenth coffin by Nigel McCrery

The thirteenth coffin is the fourth book in the DCI Mark Lapslie series so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the other books in the series.  While you can read them on their own you will enjoy the series more if you read them in order.

When DCI Lapslie is called to a possible crime scene on his weekend off his is understandably annoyed, especially because it is a 'possible' crime scene.  The possible victim is a homeless man who dies in a room that was apparently sealed and impossible to enter, but the man is definitely dead and a search of the crime scene reveals a shocking surprise - carefully crafted coffins with carefully crafted dolls.  Some of the dolls are inside the coffins and show signs of violence and death, but there are also dolls that seem to be in perfect condition.

While they are trying to figure out the puzzle of the dolls outside the coffins a young bride is shot on her wedding day, and when Lapslie and his team return to the original crime scene they find the bride doll has been moved to a coffin and bears signs of having been shot - including a rather incriminating blood stain right where the bride was shot.  Lapslie is convinced that the dolls have a more sinister meaning than just representing gruesome deaths, and when his team uncover another murder that seems to be related to the dolls it seems as though his hunch is paying off - but Superintendent Rouse  is not convinced.  

When another victim is found the pressure builds as the team races to find the final victim before the killer can strike again.  When a thirteenth coffin is found at the original crime scene DCI Lapslie has a terrible sense of foreboding that the coffin is meant for him.  As the team begins to uncover more deaths that might be connected to the killer they have no idea just how determined the killer is to complete their mission, and the lengths they will go to to get what they want.  

This is a fantastic series, and although it may seem a little far fetched in places it is well written and keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.  There is great character development from story to story, and the characters have their faults and their flaws which makes them more relateable and realistic.  You can tell that Nigel McCrery has a television background, and there is a strong feel of the police procedural drama here, but that is what makes this such a great series.  

This series is really hard to review because the little twists and turns are what make it so great, racing against the book to try and solve the mystery before the big reveal and close at the end of the novel.  I have been really challenged at times to solve the mystery before the end, in this case I figured it out but there were enough twists that I was wondering if I really had until the end.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, September 3, 2018

Scream by Nigel McCrery

Scream is the sequel to Still waters and Tooth and claw and while you can read the books separately you will enjoy the series more if you read the books in order.

DCI Mark Lapslie has struggled with his synaesthesia in the past few years, and after a rather public collapse there have been concerns about his ability to do his job - especially from some of his fellow officers.  It has been a struggle, but thanks to cognitive therapy and a new drug regime the negative symptoms of his synaesthesia have become more bearable.  The timing couldn't be more perfect because while he is overseas preparing to deliver a presentation at a conference he receives a sound file - a woman screaming in absolute pain and terror.  Sending the file off for analysis, Lapslie jumps on the first available flight so he can follow the case - expecting to get in trouble for abandoning his presentation, but not really caring.

Back home DS Emma Bradbury has picked up a murder case, taking the lead in the absence of more senior staff.  It is a chance for her to prove what she can do, especially in a quiet little town where they don't see murder victims who appear to have been tortured very often.  The victim is a woman who appears to have suffered for some time before her death, and once they identify the victim she realises that the case is more complex than she first thought.  When it becomes clear that there is a link between the sound recording Lapslie received and the case Bradbury is working it results in an uncomfortable shift of power between DS and DCI as they both want to solve the case in their own way - and because there might be victims out there who are still alive if they can solve the case in time.

I have been thoroughly enjoying this series, more so than I would have expected because McCrery has quite a punchy writing style that at times almost seems a little abrupt, but that keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace.  This series is really tricky to review because there are little twists and turns that make the story thoroughly enthralling - but they are the twists and turns that you want other readers to discover rather than have you talk about them!  I highly recommend reading this series in order, and I am currently waiting with anticipation for the next book in the series to arrive so I can read it!  

This is a great series and with each book we learn more about both Lapslie and Bradbury which makes them even more engaging/endearing as characters, and makes you care about what happens to them just that little bit more (and in contract makes you glare balefully at some of the people who seem to delight in trying to mess things up for them!).

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla