Category Archives: mystery

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

You know a book is really good when you can’t stop thinking about it.  You want to shirk all your responsibilities just so you can read it in one sitting.  The Leaving by Tara Altebrando is one of these books.  You will not want to stop reading it until you’ve reached the last page and finally know what the hell happened!

26073074Eleven years ago, six five-year-olds went missing without a trace. After all this time, the people left behind have moved on, or tried to.

Until today. Now five of those kids are back. They’re sixteen, and they are … fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mother she barely recognises, and doesn’t really know who she’s supposed to be, either. But she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, but they can’t recall where they’ve been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn’t come back and everyone wants answers.

I absolutely loved this book!  The Leaving is super twisty, tense and heart-pounding.  Tara Altebrando had me at the tag-line ‘Six were taken.  Five came back.’ The blurb completely gripped me and I had to read it straight away.  I got completely lost in the story and couldn’t stop thinking about it when I had to put the book down.

It’s one of those books that I feel that I can’t say much about, for fear that I’ll give something away.  The whole premise of the story is intriguing.  Six kids went missing when they were 5 years old.  They have turned up at home again eleven years later.  Why now? Where were they? Who had them?  Tara is very good at stringing the reader along, giving you tantalising pieces of the puzzle so that you have to keep reading to find out how all the pieces fit together.  When I started I had my own theories about what had happened to the characters but I couldn’t have picked what actually happened.

The story takes place over fifteen days from when the kids return and throughout the story we get the perspectives of different characters. We follow two of the returned, Lucas and Scarlett, as well as Avery, the sister of the kid who hasn’t returned.  The returned desperately try to remember what happened to them, while their families adjust to having them back again (or wondering why they haven’t returned, like Avery and her mum).

I think this is one of the best YA books this year and I highly recommend it.  It’s a great read for those Year 7/8 readers who want to be reading YA too.  Grab a copy of The Leaving now and get lost in this incredible story.

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The Turners by Mick Elliott

Sometimes you pick up a book and you just know that kids are going to love it.  It could be the cover that jumps out at you or the blurb that hooks you in and makes you want to read the book.  Mick Elliott’s new book, The Turners, has huge kid-appeal, from the awesome cover featuring a shape-shifting kid to the promise of killer pigs and snake-men on the cover.

the-turnersLeo Lennox has an epic problem: it’s his thirteenth birthday and he has just grown a tail.

You’d think that growing a tail in the middle of the school library would be the worst thing that could happen to you, but Leo is about to discover that things can always get worse – and a whole lot weirder. Now, as he discovers an unthinkable family secret, Leo must team up with his infuriating older sister to escape snake-skinned henchmen, ancient shape-shifters and a whispering villain determined to feed him to a pack of genetically engineered killer pigs – all while trying to control his new shape-shifting powers.

The Turners is a crazy, hilarious thrill-ride packed with shapeshifters, weird genetic experiments and family secrets.  Mick Elliott drops you straight into the action with the strange, embarassing situation that Leo finds himself in.  The story gallops and leaps along, with never a dull moment, as you join Leo and Abbie on their search for answers.

There is something in The Turners to appeal to anyone.  There is the mystery of Turners with their genetic anomoly that allows them to turn into different animals, (from rodents and birds to mammals and reptiles), the adventure that Leo and Abbie find themselves on in their search for answers, some delightfully sinister villains, and genetically engineered pigs and hamsters.  The Turners is also perfect for those kids who love a funny story.  There are some hilarious moments in the story, especially when it comes to turning in to different animals.  My favourite part is when Leo interupts his sister Abbie when she is trying to show him how an expert Turns.  It ends in Leo being sprayed with sloth urine (I know kids will love this part).

The cover and design for The Turners is brilliant too.  The bright orange and green makes the book jump off the shelf and the cover illustration makes you want to find out what the story is about.  The title also has a very cool lizard scale effect as well.

The Turners is the first part of a trilogy by Mick Elliott and I can’t wait to see what happens next.  It’s perfect for ages 9+ and would make a great read aloud for Years 5-8.

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Interview with Leanne Hall

Today I’m excited to be joined by Leanne Hall, author of the incredible This is Shyness and a magical new book for younger readers, Iris and the Tiger.  I have loved all of Leanne’s books and I highly recommend them.  You can read my reviews of This is Shyness, Queen of the Night and Iris and the Tiger here on the blog.  Leanne joins me today to answer my questions about her new book, her inspirations, and writing for kids and teens.  Thanks Leanne!

9781925240795

  • What inspired you to write Iris and the Tiger?

The very beginning came about from joining two dots. I had a random, uninvited phrase running through my head – `Iris, spider, tiger’ – for months, and I didn’t know why! At the same time, I wanted to write a story where Surrealist paintings come to life. I mashed the two ideas together, and Iris was born. I really wanted to write a fun, adventurous, odd adventure for middle readers that focussed on art and friendship.

  • Iris’s Aunt Ursula lives on an estate in Spain. Why did you decide to set the story there?

I needed to send Iris far, far away from Australia. France and Spain both had very strong traditions of surrealism, but a lot of books are set in France! Spanish culture was more of a mystery to me, and I enjoyed researching it. After watching Pan’s Labyrinth I thought the Spanish woods looked truly magical, and slightly scary.

  • Your love of art shines through in the story.  What are your favourite pieces of art?

I do love art! Whenever I’m stuck for ideas I wander around galleries, daydreaming! I have a Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/lilymandarin/iris-and-the-tiger/) where I keep all my visual inspiration for Iris and the Tiger. If I had to pick a favourite, today I would go for `Creation of the Birds’ by Remedios Varo. Elna’s owl costume for the Surrealist Dinner Party came from that painting.

  • Can you paint like Ursula and James? 

Sadly, no! Oh, how I wish I could paint and draw, but I really cannot (trust me, I’ve tried).

  • What is one thing that you would like to inherit from your family (i.e. a piece of jewellery, a knick-knack, or a sprawling estate in Spain)? 

Of course, a grand country estate would be great! But I have actually inherited something lovely – the engagement ring box that my grandmother’s ring was in. It’s not worth anything, but it’s very precious to me. I’ve kept it since I was a child, it’s a little piece of history.

  • Your first two books were for young adults.  How did you find it writing for a younger audience?

A lot of fun and, much to my surprise, not very different than writing for young adults. I just had to hold the hormones and salty language!

  • What is it about writing for children and young adults that appeals to you?

I think stories for these age groups are simply more fun, more dramatic, more intense and less pretentious. I like the freedom and immediacy of writing for kids and teens, and I feel I have greater permission to give voice to my craziest thoughts.

  • How do you approach a story? Do you plan it out or just see where an idea takes you?

I never used to be a planner, but after writing three books in very circuitous ways, I am trying to plan a bit better, to save myself all the endless restructuring. I’d say I currently sit halfway between `plotter’ and `pantser’.

  • Who are your favourite authors?

Difficult question for someone who is both a writer and a bookseller! I have just discovered Hilary T Smith, and I adore her writing. I’ll stop there, because otherwise I’ll have to give you a list of my Top 100 favourite authors.

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Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall

I’m a huge fan of Leanne Hall’s first two YA novels, This is Shyness and Queen of the Night.  They are weird and wonderful stories that have haunted me since I first read them.  When I heard that Leanne had a new novel coming out, aimed at younger readers I was very excited.  I knew she would bring the same magic to a story for younger readers as she did for teens.  Reading the blurb I got a tingle of excitement and when I started reading I knew it was going to be a very special story.  I got completely wrapped up in Iris and the Tiger and I know you will too.

9781925240795Twelve-year-old Iris has been sent to Spain on a mission: to make sure her elderly and unusual aunt, Ursula, leaves her fortune–and her sprawling estate–to Iris’s scheming parents.

But from the moment Iris arrives at Bosque de Nubes, she realises something isn’t quite right. There is an odd feeling around the house, where time moves slowly and Iris’s eyes play tricks on her. While outside, in the wild and untamed forest, a mysterious animal moves through the shadows.

Just what is Aunt Ursula hiding?

But when Iris discovers a painting named Iris and the Tiger, she sets out to uncover the animal’s real identity–putting her life in terrible danger.

I absolutely loved Iris and the Tiger!  Leanne Hall enchanted me with her tale of magic and mystery.  It is a really unique and refreshing story with plenty of excitement to keep you reading.  There is something in this book for everyone – art, magic, mystery and wonderful characters.

Iris’s mission from her parents, to get in her aunt’s will, becomes her search to discover the mysteries of her aunt and her sprawling estate.  From the moment that Iris arrives Aunt Ursula’s estate in Spain, she knows that there are strange things going on. According to her parents her aunt is near death but she looks young and full of energy.  Iris sees things in her aunt’s mansion and out in the grounds that she can’t explain.  The mansion, Bosque de Nubes, is full of surreal paintings by Iris’s Uncle James, who died many years ago.  One of these paintings is called Iris and the Tiger but Iris can’t find it anywhere in the mansion.  She sets out to uncover the mystery of the painting and find the real tiger that she is sure is lurking somewhere on the estate.

Aunt Ursula’s estate is brimming with a mysterious magic.  There are all sorts of weird and wonderful things that Iris and her friend Jordi discover while exploring her aunt’s estate.  There is a monster car, tennis-playing sunflowers, shoes with a mind of their own and a ghostly dog.

I love Leanne’s characters and there are plenty of interesting ones in this story.  Iris is my favourite because she knows there is magic out there and she goes in search of it.  She stands up for what she believes is right, especially when she knows that her parents are wrong.  Aunt Ursula is shrouded in mystery and you just know that there is something weird about the other people who live and work at Bosque de Nubes.

If I hadn’t read one of Leanne’s books before and knew that I loved them, the stunning cover would be enough to make me want to pick it up and read it.  Sandra Eterovic’s cover illustration is the perfect match for the book and really draws the reader in.  I love how each of the paintings on the cover relate to the story.

The ending of the book is so perfect and made me want to go right back to the start and read it again.  Grab a copy of Iris and the Tiger and get lost in Leanne’s magical story.

 

 

 

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The Gateway Series by Cerberus Jones

The Gateway is an exciting, action-packed series from Hardie Grant Egmont, written by Cerberus Jones.  The series focuses on The Gateway Hotel, which is a hotel for aliens on earth.  It follows Amelia and her family who have left their home in the city to come and run the Gateway Hotel.

The first book in the series, The Four-Fingered Man, introduces readers to the characters and the creepy Gateway Hotel.  It has been cared for by a strange old man called Tom for many years, and he is often seen creeping around the hotel and doing things he shouldn’t.  Tom is only one of many strange people that Amelia and her friend Charlie meet at the hotel.  They soon meet Miss Ardman and are both drawn to her mysterious luggage.  Amelia senses that something strange is going on and when she overhears her parents talking she knows that she is right.  It is one night when they are following Miss Ardman that they discover who she really is and uncover the mysteries of the Gateway Hotel.

I love The Gateway series!  It is perfect for kids who want a quick read that’s fast-paced and will hook them.  There are currently four books in the series and hopefully more to come. Check them out below:

The Gateway #1: The Four-Fingered Man

When Amelia’s parents decide to reopen the creepy old hotel at the edge of Forgotten Bay, she and her new friend Charlie quickly discover that the place is much more than they bargained for.

The Gateway is no ordinary hotel – and its guests aren’t just visiting from other cities and towns!

The Gateway #2: The Warriors of Brin-Hask

The Gateway Hotel is open for business, and Amelia and Charlie are awaiting their newest intergalactic arrivals, the fearsome Warriors of Brin-Hask.

But the kids soon discover that the Brin-Hask aren’t their only new guests. A plague of rats has infested the hotel’s kitchen, but these are no ordinary rats…

The Gateway #3: The Midnight Mercenary

A ferocious storm has struck the Gateway Hotel – and so has the hotel’s most terrifying intergalactic visitor yet. Why has he come? Who is he after?

With their families and the hotel in grave danger, it’s up to Amelia and Charlie to save the day…

The Gateway #4: The Ancient Starship

When an ancient starship is discovered in the deserts of Egypt, Amelia’s dad is whisked away to help.

Meanwhile, as the first human guests begin arriving at the hotel, Amelia and Charlie soon realise they’re hiding just as many secrets as their visitors from across the galaxy…

Cerberus Jones is the three-headed writing team made up of Chris Morphew (author of The Phoenix Files), Rowan McAuley (Go Girl! series) and David Harding (Robert Irwin’s Dinosaur Hunter series).  Chris the architect of the stories, who weaves the team’s ideas into story outlines, Rowan is the chief writer, who expands the outlines into stories, and David is the editor and checks for continuity. They certainly make a great team!  Check out this video of them talking about their series:

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More Than This by Patrick Ness

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Patrick Ness.  He’s one of my favourite authors and I love everything he writes, whether it’s for adults or teens.  It’s been a particularly good year for fans of Patrick this year, as he’s published two books, one for adults, called The Crane Wife and a Young Adult book called More Than This.  The thought of a new Patrick Ness book always gets me excited, because I never know quite what to expect.  When Patrick revealed the details about More Than This, he gave just enough to whet reader’s appetites but left you with a huge sense of mystery.  When I picked up my copy of the book, Patrick hooked me in straight away and it haunted me right until the end.

A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonising memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this.

More Than This is a tense, suspense-filled read that haunts you, so that every waking minute you are thinking about the story and trying to figure out what’s happening.  It’s one of those stories that is very difficult to explain to people without ruining the story for everyone.  I haven’t felt so obsessed with a book in a long time, wanting to just loose myself in the story and help Seth reveal the mystery of the world in which he finds himself.  Just when you think you’ve figured out what’s happening, the story takes a completely different turn.

Patrick Ness is brilliant at creating suspense (fans of his Chaos Walking Trilogy are familiar with this) and there are plenty of cliff-hangar endings in More Than This. There were so many times that I finished a chapter and had to immediately go onto the next to find out what happened.  I’m sure there were times when my colleagues wondered where I had disappeared to.  There were a couple of times where I cursed Patrick Ness out loud.  He really knows how to keep you addicted to a story!

Like his other books, Patrick has created very real characters who you feel for and are rooting for.  You follow Seth’s journey to find out what has happened to him, while at the same time, putting together the pieces of his life and discovering what led him here in the first place.

One of my favourite things about More Than This is the ending, which leaves the story open, but left me totally satisfied.

I can’t recommend Patrick Ness’ books highly enough and More Than This is one of his best.  He just keeps getting better and better.  Grab a copy of More Than This now. You won’t regret it!

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The Last Thirteen by James Phelan

Do your children love sinking their teeth into a new series? Do they love books like The 39 Clues, The Infinity Ring and Conspiracy 365?  Scholastic have just released a new series, called The Last Thirteen, that’s perfect for fans of these series and anyone who loves a fast-paced story full action, adventure, and mystery.

I click my fingers and everybody dies.

Sam wakes from his nightmare to discover the terrifying reality. It will come true.

Kidnapped from school and finding out his parents aren’t who he thinks they are, Sam is suddenly running from danger at every turn. Nothing will ever be the same again.

With his life and identity shattered, Sam’s salvation is tied to an ancient prophecy. He is in the final battle to save the world, up against an enemy plotting to destroy us all.

He alone can find the last 13.

Are you one of them?

The first book in The Last Thirteen series has just been released and James Phelan kicks it off with a bang.  The first book sets the scene for the rest of the series, so we find out snippets of information about Sam, the Last Thirteen, and the organisations that want to get their hands on them.  The Last Thirteen are a group of teenagers with a special ability that some people will kill to get their hands on – their dreams come true.  Sam is the first of the 13 and the race is on to find the other 12 in order to save the world.

The plot races along (especially in the second half of the book) and the chapters are short, so readers will gobble it up and be waiting for the second book.  Each of the books ends with a dramatic cliff-hanger, and the end of the first book certainly makes me want to read the next one to find out what happens.

Like similar series (39 Clues, Infinity Ring) there is a dedicated fan website, where fans can register online and gain VIP access to a range of exciting features.  There’s also the chance to enter the competition, with your chance to become famous.

The Last Thirteen is perfect for ages 10+ who love action, adventure and mystery.  Get your copy today and join the race to find the Last Thirteen.

Check out the book trailer and the video of James talking about the series:

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Jonathan Stroud talks about his new series, Lockwood & Co.

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .
For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again.

The first book in Jonathan Stroud’s new series, Lockwood and Co., The Screaming Staircase, is one of my most anticipated books of 2013.  It sounds absolutely fantastic!  I loved Gareth P. Jones’ Constable and Toop and The Screaming Staircase sounds like a similar sort of story.  Ghosts and supernatural detectives – what more could I want?
The Screaming Staircase is due out in NZ on 20 September 2013.

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The Originals by Cat Patrick

Cat Patrick’s books are nothing but original.  The best way I would describe her books are teen romance with a science fiction twist.  Forgotten is about a girl whose short-term memory is erased each night and she can only “remember” events from her future.  She falls in love and has to write notes at night to remind her about her boyfriend in the morning.  Revived is about a girl who was one of the first subjects in a covert programme that tests a drug called Revive. She has died and been Revived five times, but in order to live a normal life and have relationships, she has to escape from the programme.  Cat’s latest book, The Originals, is equally as original and gripping.

OriginalsTo the outside world, Elizabeth Best is a model student. She’s a cheerleader, gets straight As and holds down an after-school job. But what the outside world doesn’t know is that Elizabeth Best is actually three girls. Lizzie, Betsey and Ella are no ordinary triplets. Born as part of an illegal cloning program, the girls were forced into hiding when the program was uncovered. To avoid being taken away, the girls have lived as one girl ever since. Living a third of a life can suck. Imagine having to consult your sisters before choosing your clothes, or hairstyle, or boyfriend. So when Lizzie is forbidden from seeing Sean, the amazing guy from her English class, she and her sisters decide they’ve had enough. But for a chance at a full life, they’ll have to risk everything they know.

The Originals is a genre-bending novel that draws you into the lives of three very different girls who share one life.  Romance, science fiction, mystery, suspense, secrets and lies are all mashed-up in this very cool story.  One of the things I like the most about Cat Patrick’s books is that she keeps surprising me.  Just when you think she couldn’t possibly top her previous book, she does.  I love the way that Cat weaves science fiction into her stories and it’s this element that really draws me to her stories.

Cat’s characters are always memorable and this is certainly the case with the Best girls.  The story is narrated by Lizzie so you get to know her the most and get inside her head, but Cat really fleshes out the characters of Betsey and Ella too.  Through Lizzie you get a sense of how frustrating, confusing, and unfair it is to live a third of your life.  You are stuck taking the same subjects (even if you’re no good at them), if you’ve got the first or second part of the day you can never go out at night, and if two of you like two different guys you all have to decide which one you’ll date.

I’m not a huge teen romance reader but one thing I really like about Cat’s books is that the love interest isn’t some super hot guy that drips testosterone.  Sean in The Originals, much like Luke in Forgotten and Matt in Revived, is an average guy who is intelligent, talented and caring.   As a teenage guy reading this book I would have found Sean alot easier to live up to than many other males in teen fiction.

If you haven’t discovered Cat Patrick you don’t know what you’re missing.  Read The Originals and you’ll be hooked.

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The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Carlos Ruiz Zafon is one of those authors whose books I will always read, no matter what they’re about.  I’ve read everything that he’s written (that has been translated into English) and have loved every single one.  I’m indebted to Text Publishing who introduced me to Carlos Ruiz Zafon when they published the first of his books translated into English, The Shadow of the Wind.  It’s my absolute favourite book and I still remember how I felt when I first read it.  Whenever I read one of his books I find I get completely wrapped up in the story and can think about little else.  Carlos’ latest book from Text is his third book for younger readers, The Watcher in the Shadows.

A mysterious toymaker, Lazarus, lives as a recluse in a crumbling mansion by the sea, surrounded by the mechanical beings he has created. Strange lights seem to shine through the mists that envelop the small island where the old lighthouse stands, and somewhere in the woods nearby lurks a shadowy creature.

When her mother takes a job as a housekeeper for the toymaker, fourteen-year-old Irene meets Hannah and her alluring sailor cousin Ismael, and what seems like a dream summer begins. But Lazarus’s house contains dark secrets and before long Irene and Ismael find themselves entwined in the mystery of the September lights.

The Watcher in the Shadows is my favourite of Carlos’ novels for younger readers.  It’s a Young Adult book but adults will love it too, especially if you’re a fan of Carlos’ writing.  As soon as I started reading I found myself wrapped up in this magical, mysterious and dark story.  Carlos’ wonderful descriptive language transports you to the mysterious setting of the story, with the dilapidated mansion and the light house at its center.

Like the characters in the book, you slowly put together the pieces of the puzzle as the story progresses.  The more you find out the faster you want to gobble up the story.  It’s the sort of book you want to read all in one go because it’s so difficult to stop.  Carlos is a master of mystery and suspense and I just love the way he pulls everything together.  He certainly leaves me in awe at his amazing storytelling.

One of the things I love the most about his books, and this one especially, is the way that he layers the story.  There are stories within the main story.  Characters in his books often tell stories to other characters to give you pieces of the puzzle.  In The Watcher in the Shadows the toymaker, Lazarus, tells stories to Simone and her son Dorian about his childhood, and Irene uncovers the story of Alma Matisse through reading her diary.

The Watcher in the Shadows is deliciously dark and spooky.  There were several parts that made a shiver go down my spine.  The story is all about this shadowy creature, the ‘watcher in the shadows,’ but there are plenty of other creepy things in the story, including a crumbling mansion filled with strange mechanical beings, that has many dark corridors and secret passages.

Like his other stories, I’m sure The Watcher in the Shadows will stick with me and I won’t be able to stop thinking about it for a long time.

I’m incredibly excited to be meeting Carlos Ruiz Zafon at the Auckland Writer’s Festival this weekend.  I hope that I’ll be able to say more than ‘I love your books’ to him and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say about his writing and his wonderful books.  I never thought I’d get the chance to meet him (as he’s a Spanish author) so this is a dream come true for me.

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