Monday, February 26, 2018

Claws for concern (ebook) by Miranda James

Claws for concern is the ninth book in the Cat in the stack mysteries so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first eight books in the series.  While you can read this series as standalone books it is best enjoyed read in series order so if you have not read the first books - then you may want to read them first before reading anymore of this review.

Charlie has gotten used to his uncanny knack for finding himself in the middle of murder investigations, but he has always been careful to stay out of the media spotlight and let the local police take the credit for solving the crime.  He has after all only played a (mostly) small part in each of the investigations, and he isn't keen to ruffle any feathers by claiming more than his share of the credit.  With the arrival of his first grandchild, and a second one on the way, it seems like a good time to slow down with the mystery solving anyway.  When an author, Jack Pemberton,  approaches him about being the subject of a new book he is writing Charlie is sure he will turn the offer down, but then he discovers a surprising connection between himself and a new person in town.  

Investigating a cold case is never easy, especially when some of the people involved are no longer around to talk to - and it is especially difficult when people refuse to speak to you at all.  Luckily for Charlie he has a secret weapon, there are very few people who can refuse the charm of his cat Diesel and while Diesel may not open every door, he certainly helps in most cases.  As Charlie and Jack dig into the cold case murder they discover that the conspiracy goes further than they thought.  As they stir up the past it becomes clear that people are keeping secrets - and some of the secrets could get them killed.  After lying as a cold case for twenty years, the unsolved murder is becoming a hot case again, and if Charlie and Jack aren't careful the body count may rise as the murderer is determined to keep their secret no matter what it costs.

Saying that I adore the Charlie and Diesel books may be something of an understatement - and luckily for me my mother also reads the series so I have someone to talk to about them!  This series has a wide appeal, not only because Charlie is a librarian (my chosen profession) so there are a lot of subtle moments that feel familiar, but also because Diesel reminds me very much of a Maine coon I used to have and a little moggie I own now.  The two characters together are what make this series so charming and endearing, and the family and cast of characters that has grown around Charlie and Diesel mean there is lots of interest and realism to keep the series real and engaging. 

This was an interesting departure from the usual format for this series, with another strong character coming in, and with the case being a cold case rather than an active case - but it was an interesting and very rewarding departure.  It's always a challenge to try and figure out whodunnit first - but the ride is what makes it good and this was a very good ride indeed. 

I read Claws for concern as an ebook because my local public library had it listed months ago and in some ways I liked it more because it's harder to tell how far through a book you are when you are reading an ebook so I was able to suspend the "there's only so much of the book left" thoughts and just read the story.  Now all I have to do is wait for the tree book copy to arrive so I can talk about this story.  There is already the promise of the next book in the series and I can't wait until it comes out so I can see what is next for Charlie and Diesel.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Tempests and slaughter by Tamora Pierce

They say heroes are made, not born - but when you have a powerful magical gift it is fair to say that sometimes they are born too.  Arram Draper is only a child when he begins his magical studies at the Imperial University of Carthak, but it soon becomes clear that he has a powerful gift that needs extra supervision so he finds himself with the dubious honour of being a special case.  Despite the sparks of jealously that appear over the years from students who are less advanced and don't believe a child should be studying alongside them, his early years of study also provide a great deal of reward.  

It is a little difficult to tell which is the greatest reward - being able to study more advanced magic and keep his busy mind occupied, or forming a friendship with the other advanced students Varice and Ozorne.  There are some who would think that a commoner like Arram shouldn't spend time with an heir to the Imperial throne, but as Ozorne is a spare prince unlikely to actually rule it is not a problem for others.  As the years pass, and their friendship deepens, it becomes harder and harder for new people to join their group which also leads to some resentment.  As the years pass and Arram learns more about his magic and what he can do with it, he also learns more about the dangers of being too smart for his own good.  There are forces at work in the Carthaki Empire and not all of them are good.

Tempests and slaughter is the long-awaited first book in the Numair chronicles and it was a real pleasure to learn more about the child that grew into the man we meet in some of the Tortall books.  This is definitely not a Tamora Pierce novel for younger readers, as it covers themes that younger readers may struggle to understand and/or cope with.  In many ways Tempests and slaughter is similar to the later books in the Circle universe, covering themes of friendship, betrayal, conspiracies, and more than a little bit of gore through gladiatorial fights and medical procedures.  I thoroughly enjoyed this first outing with a young Arram and his friends, and you can already see the little hints of the tragedy and drama that is to come.  Another masterful story from Tamora Pierce that had me hooked from cover to cover.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, February 12, 2018

Know me now by C.J. Carver

Know me now is the sequel to Spare me the truth and Tell me a lie, and while you can read it as a stand alone you will enjoy the series more if you read them in order.  This review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you haven't already read Spare me the truth and Tell me a lie.

Death and loss are never easy to deal with, but losing both his father and his godson comes as a terrible shock for Dan Forrester.  Losing his father is an emotional event, but when tantalising little clues reveal that his father may in fact have been murdered, it's like a physical blow.  When his friend Grace Reavey, a doctor in the small town of Duncaid, tells him that she thinks his godson Connor was murdered rather than committing suicide it is a double blow.  Determined to uncover the truth about what happened to his father, he uses all of his connections to start investigating the case.

Sending his friend DC Lucy Davies to Duncaid to quietly investigate the events surrounding Connor's death allows him to concentrate on finding out what really happened to his father - which is not as easy as it sounds because his father died in Germany.  As Lucy and Grace look into the deaths in Duncaid, and Dan looks into the death of his father they stir up a past that was not meant to be discovered.

This series was a surprise find for me and I am very glad that I found it (even if it is getting harder and harder to write decent reviews).  Dan Forrester is an interesting and complex character, and because his past is such a mystery there is so much potential for each book to head in unexpected directions.  The first two books in the series were very much set in the now as Dan comes to terms with his past, with this latest book in the series we see more of his past and his future.  This is a very enjoyable series and I highly recommend it not only for fans of action/thrillers, but also for fans of crime/mysteries as well as there is a lot to like here and the series gets better with each book.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Redemption point by Candice Fox

Redemption Point is the sequel to Crimson Lake and to get the most out of this series you have to read them in order - so read Crimson Lake before you read Redemption Point or anymore of this review as it contains ***SPOILERS*** - you have been warned.

Crimson Lake appears to be a quiet little town, but it seems as though appearances can be deceiving - something former police detective Ted Conkaffrey is discovering all too quickly.  Since his arrest and trial for a crime he didn't commit, a trial that didn't exonerate him, he has lived in self imposed exile in the small town which suits him just fine for the time being.  When he and his boss are called in to investigate a double murder it is rather uncomfortable - for everyone other than his boss Amanda that is, noting seems to phase Amanda.  The family has called them in at the start of the investigation, which means that Ted and Amanda are having to dance around the cops who despise both of them, treading on toes and trying to curry favour to get the information they need.

Just when Ted should be concentrating on the case he finds his own past coming back to haunt him - or his alleged past anyway.  Finally agreeing to do an interview seems like a good idea, but it turns out that the media never play fair when ratings are at stake and his name is going to be dragged through the mud again.  Despite growing pressure from his supporters and loyal listeners of the Innocent Ted podcasts there are plenty of people who think that Ted is the scum he is portrayed to be, and when he finds himself saddled with two "babysitters" who work for a notorious criminal from his police past it doesn't go down so well with some people - including his soon to be ex-wife.  When an unexpected ally turns up, if they can be called that at all, Ted starts making some surprising discoveries that could lead him to the real culprit.

I loved the first book in this series and I was really looking forward to reading Redemption Point, but also dreading it too because so often a powerful book like Crimson Lake makes it almost impossible to write a good follow up - but I needed have been worried because Redemption Point was everything it should be and nothing it shouldn't.   Once again Candice Fox has thrown us into the deep end that is the life of a disgraced cop who has to interact, and even work alongside, the small town police who see him as the lowest of the low for doing unspeakable acts while wearing the badge.  With very few friends and allies to call upon in his new home town, it is not surprising that he has developed some interesting quirks that make him all the more human as a character.

One of the most enjoyable parts of Redemption Point is how everything starts spiraling out of control for Ted, but not in the expected ways.  This is a meaty story that is both divided and joined, with Ted following his story and his leads, Amanda following their case, the Police working on the investigation and including/excluding Amanda as they see fit, and the story that happens in Sydney in the past and the present.  This is a deeply satisfying read, and the ending was both expected and unexpected, and leaves a big space for another book in the series - but also, at the same time, provides story loops and spirals that also close several parts of the story off.  Any book that has me talking in riddles and code has to be good!  An amazing read that I devoured in a single afternoon because I could not put it down.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Forest of a thousand lanterns by Julie C. Dao

Xifeng lives a simple life in a small village, working alongside her aunt and their hired helper Ning to create beautiful patterns on silk.  Her embroidery is beautiful and practiced, but not as beautiful as Xifeng herself, and for all of her eighteen years her aunt has told her that she is destined for great things, destined to become the Empress of all of Feng Lu.  That destiny is all her aunt cares about, but Xifeng is torn between her promised destiny and the young man that makes her heart sing and race.  Sneaking around to spend time with Wei is exciting, but also dangerous, her body bears the scars of beatings dished out by her aunt for stolen moments with her love.

When Xifeng is thrust onto the path of her destiny she is an innocent peasant, her experience limited to the life and politics of her small village - the world beyond is full of beauty, danger, and hidden secrets.  Her promised density glitters like a jewel just out of reach, and Xifeng slowly comes to realise that if she wants to be the Empress that she will need to make a choice - the path to glory and power that will cost her dearly, or a life of obscurity living the rest of her life with Wei.  Thrust into the glittering world of the Emperor and Empress, Xifeng quickly realises that she has much to learn about life in the palace, and about her own life. 

Forest of a thousand lanterns was a delightful find, a journey into a fantasy world that has echoes of Chinese and Japanese history and culture woven together to create a world that is believable and unforgettable.  You connect immediately with Xifeng and her story, a story that does not take the expected path, and that has plenty of twists and turns to keep you hooked and shocked by turn.  It is not often that a character has me ready to shake them and congratulate them by turn - at times you can't help but cheer as Xifeng finds a way to overcome or work around obstacles, but there are also times when you feel like asking her "what are you doing???". 

Fantasy novels can be hit and miss, some bury you in details and others push you too far and too fast, but Julie C. Dao paced the story well and found the perfect balance of description and character development to help you visualise the world and the characters without bogging you down in the little details.  The end came rather abruptly and did feel a touch rushed, but that could just be because I had enjoyed the book so much and didn't want it to end.  There are mature themes in this book, so it is best suited to older teens or mature teens - and highly recommended for adult readers too!  While it is only February, Forest of a thousand lanterns is a strong front runner for my best book of the year.

Now comes the impatient wait for the next book in the series to see what happens next for Xifeng and her world.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Still waters by Nigel McCrery

DCI Mark Lapslie has been on "gardening leave" for the past few months, a charming catch all euphemism used to describe long term leave for health reasons.  His health reason is synaesthesia, a neurological condition that means his senses are 'cross wired' and he tastes the noises around him.  Sometimes it is pleasant, a taste of citrus across his tongue when he hears a voice, a taste of chocolate when his phone rings - other times it might be the taste of rotting meat when he hears a certain song.  The condition has wreaked havoc on his personal life too, driving his wife and children out of the family home because he couldn't handle the tastes that came with the normal sounds of family life. 

Forced away from regular police work Lapslie has worked on special projects, staying away from the bustle and noise that is synonymous with a police station.  When a phone call comes out of the blue asking him to come to a crime scene it is a shock, not just because he has been called to a case, but also because his name was flagged because of an aspect of the case that sounds vaguely familiar but doesn't ring any real bells.  What he discovers is an elderly victim in a shallow grave with a rather distinctive mutilation.  As Lapslie digs into the case he finds himself battling not only the unique challenges of his synaesthesia, but also a surprising amount of red tape.  There is a killer on the loose, and if no one stops her the list of victims will continue to grow.

I picked up Still waters after seeing the latest book in the series on a new books list, and as I like reading series in order I tracked down the first book in the series - and I was not disappointed.  Still waters is an interesting read, not just because it blends the parallel storylines of the killer and Lapslie so well, but also because of the history and depth of characters that are portrayed through the story.  Lapslie is not perfect, but he is also a unique character because of his neurological condition.   The killer is also interesting and unique in a world of serial killers clamouring for attention, she is not what you expect and has motivations that make sense.  There is also a subtle note of conspiracy that makes an appearance and makes you wonder what is going on.

I really enjoyed Still waters, and have passed the novel on to my mother to read as it was well written and well paced to keep you hooked from cover to cover - although for a senior citizen it may be a little close to home for her!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla