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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Daughter of Gloriavale my life in a religious cult by Lilia Tarawa

It seems as though every country has at least one religious group that takes things to extremes and is branded as a cult - and in New Zealand one of those groups is the community that lives at Gloriavale.  For most New Zealanders it a place they have heard about in the news, or they might have seen one of the documentaries that shows the wholesome and spiritual side of the community - but in the case of Lilia Tarawa it was a life she lived.  In Daughter of Gloriavale she describes her life in the religious cult, and as she tells her story she also weaves through some of the history of Gloriavale and the man who leads them. 

It is a personal story, and also a story about the people in her life - people who have stayed with Gloriavale and people who have chosen to leave.  As you read through her life and the changing landscape of the Gloriavale it becomes clear that the community definitely falls under the definition of a cult - there is a charismatic leader who demands absolute obedience of his followers, the children are conditioned from a young age to be obedient and follow the faith, and leaving is very very difficult.  One of the things I noticed reading through is that in the beginning Gloriavale was a place of faith and genuine Christian living - everyone worked together in their faith, no one went without, and people believed in what they were doing.  Over time you can see that this changed to the elders making the decisions, and that social control became more stringent and controlling - that people lived in fear of consequences and in fear of their faith rather than celebrating it.

This is a personal story and at times it stretches belief, not because I doubt that the events happened, but rather because the author uses a conversational style - and it stretches the imagination that a young child could remember a conversation so clearly decades later.  This is not the first time I have struck this with a recounting of childhood and it struck a flat note with me then as well.  Taken as a whole Daughter of Gloriavale is not so much the story of escaping a religious cult, it is more about a young woman raised in an oppressive and controlling community that comes of age and makes her own way in the world.  It is however, also a fascinating glimpse into the world of Gloriavale and what happens when the cameras aren't rolling for positive publicity.

In some ways it was a relief to find that this memoir lacks the sexual abuse and physical abuse of other stories about religious cults - and while psychological abuse is just as damaging, it is a little less harrowing for the reader.  It is interesting that Fleur Beale has written the introduction to Daughter of Gloriavale, as she is the author of I am not Esther, which I had initially thought was about the Exclusive Brethren, but it has become clearer that she was referencing the community that became Gloriavale.  I have also discovered a book written by Fleur Beale about the community that has been added to my reading list to see what comes next.

Hopefully stories like Lilia's and other former members will encourage the government to investigate the community at Gloriavale, particularly in relation to the way they claim benefits on behalf of their community.  Faith and religion should have freedom in our country, but not at the expense of the people in that religion - and Lilia's story shows that Gloriavale does thrive at the expense of the people who live there, especially the children, and that families are being torn apart by the extreme views of the elders.  Hopefully when 'Hopeful Christian' leaves this world his cult will die with him and the people of Gloriavale will be free to continue the good parts of the community, and hopefully leave the bad parts behind.

If you are interested in reading more stories from people who have been raised in extreme religious groups or cults then try some of these stories.  Some of the stories are disturbing because of their references to sexual and physical violence towards women and children, so reader beware that there will be some unpleasant (but not gratuitous) reading ahead.  If you would like to read more then try:
  • The witness wore red by Rebecca Musser with M. Bridget Cook
  • Stolen innocence by Elissa Wall
  • Parents who kill by Carol Anne Davis
  • The little prisoner: A memoir by Jane Eliott
  • Behind closed doors by Ngaire Thomas
  • Beyond belief: My secret life inside Scientology and my harrowing escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill
  • Banished: Surviving my years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain
  • I fired god by Jocelyn R. Zichterman
  • Behind the Exclusive Brethren by Michael Bachelard

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, September 25, 2017

After the end (ebook) by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois

After the end is the sequel to The end and I highly recommend you read the first book in the series first because this review contains ***SPOILERS*** and because this series is best enjoyed in order.

Having served his country Owen Taylor was looking forward to his well earned retirement and had visions of a quiet life by the lake - because he was betrayed on his last mission his retirement wasn't exactly by the book, and his new neighbours seemed to have a problem with him.  His quiet contemplation of the solution to both problems is interrupted by a blast from the past who wants him to do a favour for a woman whose husband was wounded in an operation that should never have happened.

The mission seems simple enough, track down a reporter who was somewhere he shouldn't have been - but the reporter seems to be pretty determined to avoid Owen.  To make matters worse it seems that there are other parties who are also interested in stopping Owen from reaching the reporter - and answers to what is really going on.  Luckily Owen doesn't have to rely on just his wits and training, because an old acquaintance is along for the ride and she is very good at what she does.

It has been a slightly torturous wait for this next book in the Owen Taylor series - because I knew it was out there and had to wait for my reserve to come in!  Patterson and DuBois have a good rhythm and style together, and have carved a niche in the thriller/adventure genre here with a series that blends together believable action sequences with a main character that has a wicked sense of humour (black like most people who end up in armed service or emergency services) and a strong sense of justice. 

I sincerely hope there are more to come in the series, and it would be interesting to see Owen's world expanded into a full length novel of his own in the future - although these short punchy missions seem more authentic for the world of black ops and conspiracies.

If you like this book then try:
  • The end by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois
  • The witnesses (ebook) by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois
  • The shut-in by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski
  • The house husband by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski
  • Private Royals by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • 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

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Without trace by Simon Booker

For four years Morgan Vine has been a champion for her childhood friend Danny Kilcannon - who was convicted for the murder of his step daughter Zoe and the supposed murder of his wife Rowena.  Morgan is one of the few people who believe he is innocent, and apart from documenting his innocence on a website, she has also managed to get inside the prison to see him regularly using a book group.  When new evidence surfaces and Danny's appeal is successful he is finally free, but it won't be smooth sailing for the man dubbed the 'killer canon' by the press - and it won't be smooth sailing for Morgan either. 

She has been struggling to make ends meet as a freelance journalist and has had to take cleaning jobs on the side to pay her bills.  She lives a simple life, one that is complicated when her teenage daughter suddenly reappears on her doorstep.  Lissa has always been challenging, and she is not thrilled that her mother is spending time with a man convicted of murder.  Morgan is happy Danny has been released at first, but then little niggles of doubt start to appear.  He is not the man she remembered, and there seems to be something off about their relationship.  When Lissa suddenly disappears Morgan tries not to look at Danny, but the appearance of a sex tape shows all too clearly that Danny got to know her daughter very well indeed before she disappeared.

Caught between two cases, Morgan tries to get to the bottom of the story about Danny while also searching for her missing daughter.  As the days stretch out and Lissa remains missing, Morgan can't help but wonder about Danny and what really happened to his step daughter Zoe and his wife Rowena.  When the man who testified about Danny is severely injured and nearly died Morgan starts looking into his story and stumbles across a shocking secret.  Someone is determined to keep Morgan in the dark about what really happened all those years ago, and with Lissa missing Morgan might be so distracted that she never sees the danger coming until it is too late.

I have been on something of a British crime binge this month, and I have discovered some amazing new authors - including Simon Booker.  This is the first book of his I have read, but I found it thoroughly engaging and I finished it in one sitting.  Morgan is an interesting character, she is not afraid to take risks when it comes to her personal life and her career, but on the flip side she is not so willing to take risks in terms of her personal life and her family.  Lissa is a strong willed and spoiled contrast to her mother, and Danny is an enigmatic character that you can't quite pin down as a good guy or a bad guy or just as someone who has been changed by his years in prison.  The cast of characters is small and everyone has their roles, but as the story develops you realise that not everyone is who or what they seem (or what the clichés tell you they should be).  

This is a well balanced story that not only develops the story and gives you something to sink your teeth into in terms of the 'whodunnit' aspect, but it also has strong character development so you learn more about the characters as you go along which is a very satisfying way of getting to know the people behind the story.  Some people may not like the way Booker has used the tool of visiting the past in some of the chapters, but these glimpses of the past inform the reader about who Morgan and Danny are and where their friendship has come from - and he does it very very well.  I can't wait to read the next book in the series and see if Booker can keep up the quality of the series - because I really liked Morgan Vine and her world.


If you like this book then try:


Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Killing trail (ebook) by Margaret Mizushima

Deputy Mattie Lu Cobb is settling into her new role as the only K-9 officer in Timber Creek County.  Competition for the role was fierce, and not everyone is happy that Mattie won the role.  She may have had three months of intensive training with her new partner Robo, but all partnerships take time to become rock solid and Mattie has a lot to learn about working with her partner and trusting his skills as well as her own.  When they are called to a suspicious scene in the mountains Mattie is not sure what they will find - but a dead body was not on the list.

The victim is a local teen, and she is not the only victim - her dog was also shot and left for dead.  Dealing with a death is hard enough in a small community, but when the person is murdered and seemingly an innocent victim it is even harder.  As Mattie and the rest of the team get more involved in the case it becomes clear that the death is not an isolated random act, that there is some connection between the death and rumours of drug use in the community.  With a tough no nonsense detective from out of town marking her territory around the case, and Mattie trying to squish her K-9 and patrol duties into her day it is no wonder she is feeling stretched a little thin and jumping at shadows.  Life is never easy when you're a police officer, and sometimes working in a small town makes it harder to do your job - not easier.  People are keeping secrets, and unless Mattie can work out what those secrets are, more lives are at risk.

I was reading Killing trail as an ebook while also reading a tree book and I kept finding myself tugged between the two books - and ended the struggle by leaving the tree book at home to read in the evenings and reading Killing trail during my lunch breaks.  Mizushima has an easy to read writing style that almost reads itself, and the mix of characters kept the story interesting and diverse enough that it really felt like it reflected a relatively small community.  The biggest draw card for me for this series was that the main characters are a dog handler and her police dog - and it felt like a solid representation of those working relationships.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Ryder Creed series by Alex Kava, and while Mattie is no Ryder Creed she is an interesting character in her own right and fits in a similar space of brining those relationships into the literary world.

I have already downloaded the sequel, Stalking ground, so I can keep reading this engaging and interesting series.  Luckily there is a third book in the series, but I may have to pace myself with the rest of the series as it looks as though the author writes one a year - which means a wait until 2018 for a fourth book in the series.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Road closed by Leigh Russell

Road closed is the second book in the DI Geraldine Steel series, and while you can read it separately I highly recommend reading the first book in the series, Cut short, before you read Road closed.

When a man dies in a gas explosion in his home in the early hours of the morning it is easy to suspect the wife of the crime, after all she did leave the home and had the opportunity to turn on the gas before she left.  It doesn't feel right to DI Geraldine Steel, and when it soon becomes clear that there is another person who has died under suspicious circumstances in their home the team starts to suspect that there is more to the story than they first thought - especially when the intruder seemingly strikes again.  This is a flaming hot case, and with each new discovery and each new obstruction, Geraldine and the team are more determined to solve the case so they can bring peace to the families of the victims - before there are more families to comfort.

It is another hot case for DI Steel and the team, and she is grateful to have DS Peterson on the case again, even if it does seem that he is not the same cheerful and outgoing partner he was on the first case.  That said though, neither is Geraldine, who is left reeling when she discovers a family secret that could tear her life apart.  Balancing personal and work life is always a challenge when you are on the police force, especially when you are dedicated to your job - something that not everyone understands.  As the case gets more involved Geraldine finds herself pulled between her professional and personal lives - a place she knows all too well after the breakdown of her first relationship.

One of the best things about the way Cut short was written is that the story unfolds from two different sides - the side of Steel, her police colleagues and the community - and the side of the killer who we initially see in short glimpses, but over the course of the story we come to see him more and understand what his motivation is and what is happening.  This switching point of view technique is overused by some, but Russell uses it to great effect and I stopped noticing after the first few times, as the story flowed seamlessly.  A great read and I have already gotten my hands on book two in the series to see what happens next for DI Steel and her team.

I really enjoyed reading Cut short, which I had loaded onto my phone so I could show customers at work when they asked about ebooks, but I was a little surprised at just how much I liked the series.  As soon as I had finished Cut short I requested a copy of Road closed so that I could keep going with the series - this time in tree book format.  I was not disappointed as Russell has once again delivered a solid thriller that gives you glimpses of both sides of the story, but still keeps you guessing about what the whole story is and what might be coming next. 

I have been watching Law and Order: Criminal Intent on DVD the past few weeks and in a lot of ways both Cut short and Road closed remind me of those police procedurals, where you are given bread crumbs to help you piece together what is happening - but you have to pay attention to figure it out before the end.  This is a good, solid series that deserves to be discovered, and while that may seem like I am damning the series with faint praise, if you saw the number of books I discard after a few pages each month you would realise it is not faint praise at all.  A great police procedural that avoids cliché and predictability, and keeps you guessing - which is a rare find indeed.

If you like this book then try:


Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Cut short (ebook) by Leigh Russell

Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel has just moved into a new apartment in Woolsmarsh and is looking forward to a fresh start - she was not expecting a killer to be lurking in the shadows of what seems to be an idyllic place.  The first murder victim was discovered by accident, her strangled body found buried under leaves in a park popular with families in the community.  It seems like an average murder inquiry, until the second body is found and public pressure mounts for the police to find the killer quickly before he can strike again.

The case is not going to be easy to solve though as there seems to be no connection between the two victims, and some of the potential suspects seem to be unusually averse to dealing with the police which makes it more challenging to sift through the clues.  Determined to prove herself Steel throws herself into the case with her trademark single minded focus, but that focus on the case leaves her on the outs with some of her new colleagues, and to a certain extent from her new boss.  As the case gains more attention and everyone waits for the next victim, Steel finds herself facing threats at home because someone knows she's with the police and is determined to leave their mark on her life.  Can Steel and her team solve the mystery before another victim is found, or will the killer get away with murder?

I find British police thrillers to be rather hit and miss - some are exceptional reads, while others are complete misses where I give up after a few pages.  Cut short fell somewhere in the middle of the field, but was definitely towards the better end of the spectrum.  I liked DI Geraldine Steel from the start, mostly because she seems like a real person right from the beginning, coming to terms with the loss of her long term relationship and uncertainty around her new team.  The rest of the police in her unit also feel very real too, people you can recognise without drifting too far into the cliche - a nice change from some of the other crime novels around at the moment.

One of the best things about the way Cut short was written is that the story unfolds from two different sides - the side of Steel, her police colleagues and the community - and the side of the killer who we initially see in short glimpses, but over the course of the story we come to see him more and understand what his motivation is and what is happening.  This switching point of view technique is overused by some, but Russell uses it to great effect and I stopped noticing after the first few times, as the story flowed seamlessly.  A great read and I have already gotten my hands on book two in the series to see what happens next for DI Steel and her team.

If you like this book then try:


Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Buried heart by Kate Elliott

Buried heart is the final book in the Court of fives trilogy and this series needs to be read in order for the most enjoyment!  This review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first two books in the series so read Court of fives and Poisoned blade before you read anymore of this review (you have been warned).

Jessamy thought she knew what it meant to live in two worlds, but she is starting to realise that she never really knew either world.  Her father is part of the Patron class and has risen to the rank of General, something he always dreamed of but it meant leaving behind his Commoner wife and the daughters they raised together.  Despite everything that has happened Jessamy strives to find a place in Patron society, even if the only way she can do that is to run in the Fives, a game she suspects has its roots in the beliefs of her mothers people - the Commoners that have been suppressed and oppressed by the Patron class for centuries.  The only bright spark in her life is her secret relationship with Prince Kalliarkos - but even that is not a real safe haven in these uncertain times.

When a foreign force threatens the people of Efea no one is safe, Patrons and Commoners alike are in danger from the invading force and the forces fighting for control from within.  With every passing day Jessamy finds her eyes opened by the corruption and greed that drives the Patron class, and with each day she finds herself drawn into the Commoner rebellion that is growing in strength.  A time is coming when Jessamy will need to choose a side, and it will be a difficult and heart wrenching decision to make.  On one hand she has the chance to free her mothers people and save her country from corruption before the new king is corrupted - but that would mean turning against her father and her love.  On the other hand if she sides with her father and the new king then her mothers people will suffer for centuries to come - except for those killed for their part in the uprising.  What path will Jessamy follow - and what will it cost her?

I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed the Court of fives trilogy, partly because so many fantasy series aimed at teenagers seem so focused on being clever and original that they seem to miss the point - that their stories need to be readable, and that their worlds need to be believable.  I loved, loved Jessamy and her world, partly because she was flawed and made bad decisions.  It was also clear that she was having to work through the story, figuring things out for herself rather than having the answers dropped in her lap in a neat package.  It was also somewhat heartening that although Kate Elliott did tone down some of the violence and depravity of war, she didn't entirely shelter her teen audience, and you get a real sense of the loss and the death that is involved in a tricky and twisted story such as this.

There is a strong mythology that underlies this trilogy, and while magic isn't an all powerful force that saves the day, it does lay a solid and believable foundation on which this story is built.  In our not so distant past it was not uncommon for contries to invade each other and take control, burying the indigenous culture under their own.  This is also true of hundreds of years of religious 'conversion' where indigenous cultures were converted from their own belief systems so they could be saved.  I may be wrong, but there is a distinct feeling that the world of Efea has a middle Eastern feel, or maybe from Egypt.  I didn't get a chance to read the novella that goes with the series, but this is a highly recommended series and I hope that Elliott writes more series aimed at teenagers because she created a world and characters that I came to care about and that is a rare thing these days. 

The best part is that I read the series as an adult and found plenty to enjoy so this is one of those unique series that adults and teenagers can enjoy together.

If you like this book then try:


Reviewed by Brilla