Category Archives: mystery

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

A boy spends every day looking out his window. He sees the people in his street going about their business; leaving for work, watering their gardens, and chatting over the fence. One day though, the neighbour’s grandson goes missing and this boy is the last person to see him. Soon the police turn up and they need to know anything that would help their investigation. The reason this boy watches everything from his window is that he has crippling OCD. This boy is Matthew in Lisa Thompson’s amazing new book The Goldfish Boy.

9781407170992Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn’t been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child’s life… but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?

The Goldfish Boy is an absolutely gripping mystery with an incredible young boy at its heart. I knew from reading the blurb that this book was going to be unlike anything I had read before and I wasn’t disappointed. Lisa Thompson grips you from the first page and doesn’t let you go until the last sentence. She keeps you in suspense trying to figure out what has happened. There are so many questions that pop up as you read (What is wrong with Matthew and what is the connection to the death of his brother? What has happened to Teddy?) but Lisa ties up all the loose ends.

I loved this book not just because of the gripping mystery but also because of the intriguing character of Matthew. At the start of the book he hasn’t been out of the house in several weeks, he washes constantly and stares out of his window at the people in his street.  The story is narrated by Matthew and as the story progresses we get to know more about him and his crippling fears.  Lisa Thompson takes you inside the head of a boy suffering from OCD and you really get a sense of how terrifying it must be for him.  There are times that you think Matthew makes some progress and starts to get better, only for him to break down and need to clean himself furiously.  I loved that this story wasn’t just about the mystery of Teddy going missing and who did it, but about how Matthew manages to overcome his condition to find the answers.

The Goldfish Boy is one of my favourite middle grade reads so far this year.  It is a perfect read aloud for Years 6-8, the only problem being that the kids won’t want you to stop reading until you’ve reached the end.  I can’t wait to read whatever Lisa Thompson writes next!

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Frankie Potts is back again!

Frankie Potts is the village of Tring’s number one girl detective.  She has flaming red hair, a questioning mind and an addiction to gobstoppers.  And she is REALLY good at solving mysteries. Frankie’s first two adventures saw her trying to solve a whole pile of mysteries including:

  • What’s my (sort of) new dog called, and where’s he from?
  • Why is my grandma acting so oddly?
  • Why are random pink items of clothing going missing all over the village?

Frankie Potts is back in two new adventures – Frankie Potts and the Postcard Puzzle and Frankie Potts and the Wicked Wolves.

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Frankie’s list of mysteries to solve is getting longer by the day. Firstly, her mum is acting very strangely – she’s tired, grumpy and feels sick all the time. And then there’s Grandma M, who keeps dropping hints about expanding her troupe of performing greyhounds: Tinkerbell, Titania and Tiramisu.

With her detective sidekick Mac, Frankie travels to Giggleswick to find out about the mysterious Gideon R. Best, Animal Trainer Extraordinaire, and why he sent a postcard – with two kisses on it – to Frankie’s mum. How can Frankie work out what an overweight donkey, a cuddle-obsessed pig and a pooing parrot have to do with anything? And why has Tinkerbell started to waddle?

Kaboom! Things are getting explosive in Frankie’s family. She had better start solving.

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A band of dancers with bells and blue painted faces have come to Tring, and Frankie can smell a mystery. Who are these Wicked Wolves? How come Grandma M knows them, and wants to pick a fight with them?

Meanwhile, Tinkerbell and Sparkplug’s seven adorable puppies are causing chaos at Frankie’s house. Grandma M is planning to give away four of them, and Frankie and Mac must make sure that they go to good homes. Ralph Peter-McGee, Frankie’s arch-enemy, seems to have his eye on her favourite pup Kettle Thomson. Can Frankie stop Kettle going to the wrong home? And why are those Wicked Wolves sniffing around the puppies?

The Inaugural Tring Talent Contest is rapidly approaching, and Frankie has some serious detecting to do. But maybe not all the clues are quite as they seem.

I can’t get enough of Frankie Potts!  She is a wonderful character that kids, especially girls, will love.  She is really inquisitive and mysteries seem to follow her wherever she goes.  Naturally she needs to solve them and you just know that she’ll find the answers.  She carries a notebook everywhere so she always has a list of mysteries that she needs to solve.  I like the way that these lists are included in the story so that the reader can try to solve the mysteries too.

One of my favourite features of the Frankie Potts series is the design of them.  Phoebe Morris’s illustrations and the bright colours make the covers stand out and look really appealing to the target audience.  I also really love the alliterated titles which sound really cool (Postcard Puzzle, Bikini Burglar).

Get the Frankie Potts series into the hands of any young fans of a good mystery.  I think they would be a good ‘next step’ for fans of Geronimo and Thea Stilton and Billie B. Brown.  Once you’ve read one you’ll be hooked!

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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!

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  • 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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