Childhood Games

Fiction - Mystery - General
368 Pages
Reviewed on 07/08/2014
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Julia Hopkinson for Readers' Favorite

Childhood Games is the amazing debut novel from screenwriter J.M. Roach. Security consultant Samantha Black awakes in hospital, the only survivor of the brutal massacre of her nearest and dearest and the kidnapping of the girl that’s like a sister to her. That’s more than enough for anyone to cope with, but Samantha also has a guilty secret: she was born and fostered as Jennifer, but adopted and raised as Blackjack, a trained killer, violent operative and master of combat, electronics and weaponry. Samantha believes that her loved ones have been killed or taken by the mysterious Father who has raised and taught her, but from whom she has tried her hardest to escape. He has done this because of her. Samantha is determined to avenge her family and bring to justice those who have once again tried to ruin her life.

Childhood Games is, quite simply, brilliant. J.M. Roach has written a fantastic book with a wonderful story, thrilling action scenes and clever twists that showcase his screenwriting skills. The story is magnificent and brilliantly plotted, the characters are compelling and the writing is perfect. The intrigue starts on page one and drags you along body and soul for the ride. The action and tension is relentless and there is barely a moment to catch your breath, from Samantha’s early escape from the hospital to the final shocking twist. This is one of the best books I have read recently and I really struggled to put it down long enough to go to work. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to all thriller fans.

Cheryl Schopen

In Childhood Games by J.M. Roach, Samantha Black wakes up in a hospital to learn that the only family she’s ever had has been murdered, except for the girl she thinks of as her sister. With the help of Dr. Ryan, she is determined to figure out who is responsible and save her sister before something terrible happens to her. Samantha was taken as a little girl by a man she knows as Father, who trained her to be a cold-blooded killer. She managed to escape him and that life, but now she must use those unique skills to do what she has to do. In doing so, she risks being found by the very man she has worked so hard to get away from.

This book was action-packed and had me on the edge of my seat almost the entire time. The exciting plot, the unforgettable characters, the interesting flashbacks, and the intense action sequences made Childhood Games a must-read. I was so surprised to read in the back of the book that this was J.M. Roach’s first novel. It’s very impressive. Even though it was a little over-descriptive at times, I thought the writing style was great. It kept me engaged and made me want more. Not to mention the ending that I never saw coming. Roach is definitely an amazing writer, and it clearly shows. Unpredictable and thrilling, this book will suck you in and you won’t want to put it down. I am really hoping for a sequel. This author will definitely be on my to-look-out-for list. I am so glad I discovered him.

Lex Allen

Childhood Games, by J.M. Roach, is an action-adventure thriller revolving around a storyline that feels familiar, though I can’t recall the source. A relentless, egomaniac genius, known only as “Father,” has developed a methodology for producing “soldiers” whose educational subjects, from childhood onward, consists exclusively of everything necessary to be expert in weapons, assassination, bomb making, safe-cracking, breaking and entering, and small unit, military tactics; an unstoppable, cold-hearted killing machine. There is, however, a flaw in Father’s curriculum; he has failed to address the inherent human trait of morality. Regardless of the familiar theme, this story sets itself apart from any other similar novel I’ve ever read, due in large part to the author’s expertise (and perhaps extensive research) in the aforementioned subject matter.

Blackjack, aka Samantha Black and Jennifer, is Father’s prize student. She’s a walking, talking female version of TV’s famous character of the 1980s and ‘90s – McGyver - who can make anything out of anything necessary to attack, defend or escape life and death situations. The beauty here is that Mr. Roach takes the reader through every one of these scenes with explicit and expert detail that is absolutely fascinating. One cannot help but abhor the cold-bloodedness of Blackjack, while at the same time empathize as she weaves her way through bad guy after bad guy in her efforts to right a grievous wrong. She’s a wonderful character offset and supported by Ryan, a doctor which she lures into a date, then takes hostage, nearly gets him killed, and finally falls in love with him. Against all odds, he also falls hard for her. Though Childhood Games is the opening salvo in a new series, there is an absolute conclusion in this book that comes from left field. It’s a total surprise whereby all of the “loose ends” come together to produce complete closure without any hints of deus ex machina. With a must-read for thriller fans, Mr. Roach has me thoroughly hooked and eagerly awaiting the further adventures of Samantha Black and Ryan.

Kayti Nika Raet

In J.M. Roach’s novel Childhood Games, Samantha Black (not her real name by the way) works for a private investigation team and has been living a normal civilian life for two years after escaping from Father, a man who trained her to be the ultimate assassin. By working for Able Security Team and Henry, Sam hopes to regain a piece of her childhood lost after being snatched from the first foster family she felt was good to her. But those hopes are soon dashed when she wakes up in a hospital and discovers that Henry, to whom she had hoped to reveal her true identity, is dead, along with the rest of his team. Now his daughter Lindsey is missing. Sam must figure out who was behind the attack and bring them to swift justice.

Childhood Games by J.M. Roach is a fast paced novel where the action hardly lets up. If I were to describe it in a sentence, I would say it’s like Taken, but with a female Liam Neeson and, trust me, when she finds you, she will kill you. Childhood Games seems like a book made for the screen, and the only time it lets up on the action or the thrills is when we delve a little into Sam’s past. Some of it is before Father, back when she was raised by Henry and his wife Claire, other parts are from during her training with the man who intended to use her to rule the world. I liked Childhood Games by J.M. Roach a lot and, judging by its ending, hopefully there are more books about this tough but broken heroine.

Kim Anisi

Childhood Games by J.M. Roach is the action-packed story of Blackjack, Samantha, also known as Jennifer. The young woman is the result of an experiment. She was chosen as a very young child to grow up with a foster family she came to love. Her new "father" turned her into what he hoped would be a killing machine without conscience: precise, deadly, quick, and completely under his control. What her "father" failed to see was that things like loyalty and a conscience can't truly be turned on and off as he would like, and his perfect weapon chooses to not be his weapon anymore. Sam manages to make him believe she is dead, yet when something terrible happens to her foster family, Blackjack returns to the living - a weapon that rebels against its creator.

Childhood Games by J.M. Roach is written in a way which makes it very easy for the reader to imagine every scene. The different events are described in detail, but fortunately J.M. Roach did not go over the top (don't we all hate it when someone manages to put more adjectives and adverbs in one sentence than we use in a whole paragraph?). The pace slowly picks up - while you can take a break from reading during the first half of the book, you feel less inclined to do so during the second half when the events become more and more dangerous. The characters are likeable and you can't help but cheer them on. The end also makes you believe that there will be more interesting stories to follow.