Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Brad Taylor: One Rough Man

In his debut novel and first in a series, Brad Taylor shows what a man is capable of when he has nothing left to live for:

Pike Logan was one of the most successful leaders of specialized off the books black ops task force but he is about to embark on his last mission, as his instincts seemed to never be wrong and he was okay with asking forgiveness later in order to get the job done. Serving his country has always been important to Pike, often putting it before his family. He has promised his wife that this will be his last mission, but when unforeseen events up the timeline of when Pike needs to leave there are disastrous consequences. Pike is now a man with nothing to live for except for the first 30 seconds when he first wakes up in the day and the drinks he has at night. He doesn't care about himself or country, he just wants to be left alone. Although Pike to suffer just wants to waste away suffering in his own demons, there is a new terror that has been discovered that was centuries in the making. Pike is going to have save his country, world and maybe even himself one more time.

I have seen the name Brad Taylor many times at the book store, but this is my first read by him and I am extremely happy that I picked this book up. This is a great action adventure/thriller book that plays on the the fears of the USA and the war on terror. I also appreciated that while the main terrorists plot that they are aware of stems from the Middle East (very current events, even though the book is a few years old now) they were not the only bad guys that Pike and Jennifer had to deal with. There were some homegrown terrorists as well that would stop at nothing to have them both dead. I will say that the homegrown terrorists were far more scary that the Middle East ones, and what they were trying to accomplish. I think you can tell that Taylor may not have been impressed with the politics involved in the war on terror and military in general. And speaking of Taylor and the military, you can also tell the Taylor knows what he talking about when he has Pike planning and executing missions (though I'm sure it is stretched a bit at times) as he served for 21 years in the army and served in many places around the world. Always nice to read an author that has some sort of expertise in the field that they are writing about as it makes the story that much more real.

I really liked the desperation that Taylor forces on his characters; they are given a no win or only one option in order to survive many times in the book especially as they could only rely on each other and at times they question that partnership as well. This added to the overall suspense and there were times when you as a reader question who of the two main characters will survive as well as the secondary characters as well. There are 2-3 torture scenes that occur within the book, and while they are not described in great detail, they are pretty descriptive in the aftermath.

I questioned Pike's thought process to begin with in Part 2, it seemed to go against everything that he knows is smart. But the more I think about it the more I realize that this was just part of his downward spiral of not caring about his life or whether he died or not. Pike will not always be a character that you like, he's not really the anti-hero but there are times when he questions whether he should help Jennifer out or just leave her to her fate which would leave her dead. Pike has an amazing skill set that I think those who enjoy the action adventure genre will appreciate. I enjoyed that Taylor had Pike participate in mainly hand to hand combat in this book and had him rely less on guns, added to the danger and the suspense of the situations that he finds himself in. Plus Pike did not have any resources on this mission, did not always have access to guns and those that he does get his hands on he had to take someone out first.

Jennifer was an interesting character, that was fairly well developed (I was surprised that Taylor gave her as much book time as Pike) but there were times when I thought that Taylor just pulled an ability that she had out of no where when it was convenient for him. I liked that Jennifer was able to contribute something to the mission so she was not just the damsel in distress all the time but I though that Taylor could have introduced her "abilities" in a different way. I really liked that Jennifer was able to learn new skills as the book went on and Pike did not have to carry her throughout the plot.

This book kept me on the edge of my seat throughout and I loved Pike as a main character. I'm glad that this is the first book in what seems to be a fairly established series and I look forward to picking up the next book as this book satisfied all my needs in an action adventure novel.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Aimee Hyndman: Hour of Mischief

In her debut novel, Aimee Hyndman takes the reader to a steampunk world where the Gods are never finished meddling in the human's lives. 

Seventeen year old Janet Redstone has had to fight for everything she has in her life, which has lead her to become the leader of one of the famous thief gangs within the city. Janet prides herself in her planning ability and keeping her friends and accomplishes in line and getting them out each job. When a job of stealing from the Clockwork God's temple goes wrong and Janet and her friends end up in prison she is willing to do anything to get them out. The God of Mischief  has comes calling right when Janet is the most desperate and offers her a deal that she knows she cannot refuse. Janet is going to have to use every skill she has developed in over the years in order to succeed as not only her life and that of her friends are at stake but that of the human race are all hanging in the balance

I liked this book, it has been a while since I have read a book that had Gods meddling in with humans' life, so for me it was a nice change. I also think that Hyndman did a good job at world building, it has a steampunk fantasy feel to it especially it seems like there are a lot of mechanical aspects in the world and also the main character, Janet's arm. I will say that the Gods at times became a bit confusing as Hyndman seems to mix a few different Gods from throughout history, but this was a minor point in the world building. I did like that the Gods that Hyndman did feature in the book were different interpretations of the classics, for example the God of love being Male and really more of a man whore than about love, lets say love is loosely interpreted in this book.

This book is a fairly fast paced read with Janet trying to complete the tasks that Itazura, The God of Mischief, has set out for her, in order to save her friends from prison. However, there were times when the tasks or trouble that Janet would get in were over too quickly and really Janet no worse for ware because of Itazura's power. For me this caused the suspense and at times the mystery to falter as you knew Janet was going to make it out alive and well, there was really no cause to worry over her. There is a hint of romance in this book, but it does not dictate the story (yet, I have feeling there is more to come) as Janet is all about loyalty to her friends and wanting to save them.

Janet is an interesting character and I loved that she had a mechanical arm, such a cool idea, and it gives her something special to rely on when dealing with gods and thugs as most of them do not expect it. I like that Janet has had to struggle to obtain everything that she has in life including her friends, who she is loyal to, to a fault. Janet is very street smart, able to think on her feet and while she may only have a rudimentary education she does not allow this to hold her back. It is also interesting that Janet scorns all the Gods, especially the God of love because of her mother being a whore but prays to him nonstop for the love she seeks but never receives it, and yet it is Janet who the God of Mischief seeks out. I do wonder how he chose Janet and I hope that this is explained in future books (I'm pretty sure this is going to be a series) as I am also pretty sure that Itazura rigged the job that Janet got caught for.

This book ended in a weird place. I mean I'm all for a cliff hanger but in this book it felt like a strange place to end in a way that it felt like I only got half the book. Overall, this is a good read and I really liked Janet as a character as well as the steampunk world that Hyndman created. I would continue on in this series but I haven't seen any news for the next book to be released. I would recommend this book to those who like the steampunk feel and/or like books with Gods meddling with humans.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

M. J. Arlidge: Eeny Meeny

In a first in a series, M.J. Arlidge will have you questioning what would you do in a situation where all hope is lost and the choice of survival is left between two people:

Two people are kidnapped and left in a place where it is impossible to escape, they are left with a cell phone and a gun with one bullet, they receive a call, you choose who lives and who dies. The game, only one person will leave  alive and it is up to them who decides who walks away. Detective Helen Grace is assigned to this case and she can't believe what the victims have told her. This killer is playing a twisted games and is all too happy to include Helen in it. As more people go missing Helen knows that she is on a deadline, as people can only last so long in dire situations before the need to survive overcomes the need to hope that someone will find them.

This book was good read and I really liked the overall premise of the book. It was great that Arlidge was not scared to have death in his book, there is quite a body count here and as more people go missing you know that not everyone is able to survive. I mean how long do you think you would last in a place where you are thirsty, cold, hungry, scared and there is a way out. Do you do the nice thing and sacrifice yourself or do you take someone else life into your own hands? It is a very interesting questions and overall concept of the book. 

The mystery aspect is well thought out, but I will say that I do not think that a reader will be able to predict who the killer is in the end. You can get the idea about some connections but who the identity of the killer is I think would be an impossible feat to figure out. I think this is the one aspect that I did not enjoy about the book, a killer that I felt was pulled a little bit out of left field without a set up to it. However, I think the rest of the book is really well done, and I guess I cannot figure every book out, I just like the option to figure it out. I also found that the ending was over a little too quickly especially as there is this big build up to the reveal and then the book just ended. I was hoping for something a little bit more of a "showdown" between Helen and the killer.

Maybe I jumped to the wrong conclusion on some of the parts/chapters in the book but the revelation in the latter part made me feel like I really didn't know Helen at all at by the end of the book and some of her choices did not make as much sense as they could have. Helen is a very cold character, she shows very little emotion even when she is showing someone that she cares and most of her emotions are based around controlling people around her and well controlling her emotions as well. I'm not sure quite where the BDSM life style that Helen is part of and how this fits in her overall character (she is a submissive...kind of) but maybe this is explained further in the series.

I like that Arlidge was not afraid to have his main character suffer, both emotionally and physically, but to add some fuel to the intrigue about this book not everyone is going to make it by the end of the book. If you were a fan of the first (and I stress first) Saw movie then you will enjoy this book as well as it has similar undertones to it. Arlidge has piqued my interest with this first book in this series as I like books that make me question what would I do in this situation. I look forward to see where Arlidge takes Helen, this series and what new game he has in store for readers next.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Victoria Aveyard: Red Queen

In her debut novel and first book in a new series, Victoria Aveyard takes the reader to a world divided by blood and powers, those who have them and those who do not, but one girl is about to change everything:

Mare Barrow lives in a world where your blood decides your fate. If you are born a Silver you live in luxury and have some form of a power. If you are born a Red you serve in some way or another and if you do not have a skill set by the age of 18 you are sent to the Army to fight the never ending war. Mare's 18th birthday is approaching and the only skill that she has developed is one as pick pocket, but that was the best way that she could help her family survive. There is a revolution brewing that Mare wants to help Mare's life is about to change forever, with a chance meeting with the Silver Prince and his ability to change her life as a maid in the palace. However, Mare is about to change the world altogether, in front of the Silver court a hidden power is released from Mare the first Red to ever to display a power. Mare now is locked in a struggle of trying to protect her family and keep it a secret of her blood color, as well as help the revolution that is brewing as being in the palace gives her a unique access. Mare is just a country girl and is not ready for the secrets, the shadows and dealings that happen in court life, Mare needs to figure out quick who to trust as the Reds are counting on her to succeed and free them from tyranny.

Victoria Aveyard is being hailed as one of the best YA debut authors of the year (actually just saw on goodreads that she won the debut goodreads author award) and I kept hearing about this book so I decided to give it a try. This was a really good read, better than I was expecting, and it exceeded my expectations right from the beginning. I'm not really sure what I was expecting but I did not think I would enjoy it as much as I did. I would personally say that it is a more action packed (and more interesting in my opinion) version of Kiera Cass' The Selection.

I really liked the revolutionary/rebels part of the book as this is a pivotal theme throughout the novel and Aveyard does a good job on highlighting it as well as throwing twists and turns along the way that has Mare questioning not only herself but who she can trust (and by all the way through I mean right to the end). Mare never forgets where she comes from and the hardships that they faced on a daily basis. Mare at times is a typical teenage with her indecisiveness not only with aspects with the revolution but with guys as well (see below), which means she does make mistakes, which is nice as sometimes the main characters in these books are portrayed as perfect.

There is more than a love triangle in this book, not sure what to call it when there are three guys that want one girl, but that is what occurs, and it was at time annoying having Mare question her choice of who she wants to be with, then change her mind and then change it again. I think I have just come to accept ever since the success of the love triangle in The Hunger Games and Twilight series, that YA novels with a female lead are going to have this aspect in the plot in some way (I will say this is the majority, not every book is going to have it, but you have to agree it is a common theme). While the "triangle" is prevalent in this book and does shape the story somewhat, I did not feel like it was the only aspect that that Aveyard wanted to highlight. Best part was that Mare never really becomes the puppy dog eyed love sick girl that is also prevalent in YA novels. Maybe this is due to having some choices that she needs to make, or maybe she just has more important things on her mind, like a revolution and changing the lives of the Reds. Thank you for a nice change there Aveyard.

Aveyard does a great job in setting up a new series that I think fans of the Hot/popular YA novels out there will enjoy this book as well. While Aveyard does not really add anything new to genre, she is able to take some of the best aspects of those popular novels and bring them together for a great read. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Barry Lyga: Game

You will need to read the first book in this series, I Hunt Killers in order to understand where Jasper comes from and begin to understand who/what Billy is. It is also a really great read for either YA or adult readers and caught me completely by surprise.

Barry Lyga is back with the next installment in his Jazz & Billy Dent series and if there one thing that Billy knows how to do it's how to play a good game:

Jazz found what it was like to be on the same side as the law as he helped the police track down a murderer in Lobo’s Nod however, since then Jazz has been craving something more, wanting to help more there are just not that many murders that occur in a small town. When a NYC police detective shows up at Jazz's door asking for his help, he would never refuse. NYC is being held in a strangle hold by the Hat-Dog killer whose killings are nothing like anyone has ever seen before, the murders make no sense and at times do not even seem to be connected. Jazz is thirsty for a new challenge but he never would have guessed how dangerous of a game he has entered.

I love the way that Laga's mind works (twisted amazing awesomeness that it seems to be) and the way he sets out the plot and multiple games that are played within this book is amazing, you never really know which turn he is going to take next and often it was one that you will not see coming. When I am unable to see something coming from an author in a plot, I know that I have found a winner in an author, and I have found this in spades with Lyga.

Lyga understands that the world is just a game to a serial killer, a game with real people as the pieces and always trying to stay one step ahead of law enforcement. It may seem slightly far fetched for  a 17 year old to be approached to help on a NYC serial killer case, but Lyga does a fantastic job of making it feel like this is a real possibility. I mean why not use the best to catch the worst. Lyga is the real deal when it comes to serial killer novels and those who like adult or YA books will enjoy what Lyga has set out here.

I liked that there were more point of views from Connie as she struggles to not only be Jazz's girlfriend but to also help him see that he is not his father and that she is not going anywhere. It was also interesting to see Connie push the boundaries as what she believes in and really how far she is will to prove herself to Jazz. I also found that at times I was annoyed with Jazz as he does not know what he has in Connie but also it seemed like he did not take her seriously when she was trying to help with the case. There is no doubt that Jazz's up bringing gives him a unique perspective but he also does not realize that this causes him to be blind in certain aspects as well both in his investigative work and in his relationship. Jazz does grow as a character in this book as he learns some valuable lessons, some that are very dangerous and have permanent consequences. All the frustrations that I have with Jazz, he has with himself and Connie has with wanting to take their relationship to the next level, makes Jazz all the more real of a character that you want to root for.

This book did not end where I expected it to, talk about cliff hanger (Damn you Lyga, Damn you). I went to turn the next page and there was the acknowledgments part, I was thinking maybe I only got part of the book but saw that other reviews feel the same way as I do. Basically I do not think you can read this book and not pick up the third, I dont know what kind of reader would not want to continue on. There is so much unresolved in this book, and by unresolved I mean lives hanging in the balance that I need to pick up the next book ASAP.

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