Tag Archives: mystery

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Sometimes I find it really hard to express what I think of a book.  This usually happens when I’ve read a book that is amazingly wonderful.  I do love it when this happens but I can’t quite explain why I loved it so much.  This has happened with The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly.  Please bear with me as I try to explain.

y648The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, and her ability to trust.

And when Minnow rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now the Kevinian Prophet has been murdered and the camp set aflame and it’s clear Minnow knows something. But she’s not talking. As she adjusts to a life behind bars in juvenile detention, Minnow struggles to make sense of all she has been taught to believe, particularly as she dwells on the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of; if she is willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is an amazing book and I absolutely loved it!  It’s a powerful, harrowing and haunting story that had me gripped from beginning to end.  Minnow’s story is a compulsive read and Stephanie Oakes had me hanging on her every word.  From the very first page you want to know Minnow’s story and how she ended up standing over a blood-soaked body.  Through her story that she tells to Dr Wilson and her cell-mate Angel, we piece together Minnow’s life.  I love the way that Stephanie Oakes draws out the story, giving us pieces of the puzzle right to the very end.

Minnow is an really interesting character, who shows determination, resilience and bravery in a horrible situation.  Spending most of her life in The Community, Minnow must follow the rules and edicts laid down by The Prophet, the leader of the Kevinians.  Minnow sneaks out of The Community and meets a boy called Jude who helps her to discover that the world isn’t exactly how The Prophet has portrayed it.  Minnow starts to doubt everything she has been told and when she refuses to marry The Prophet and runs away, she faces the horrific consequences.  Stephanie Oakes’ description of Minnow’s hands being chopped off by her father with a hatchet is harrowing and will stick with me.  I could picture quite clearly what was happening and it made me physically cringe.  Even though Minnow has no hands she has the strength to carry on and make her life her own.

I also loved the relationships that Minnow had with the other characters in the book.  Minnow’s cell-mate Angel is a friend and confidante to Minnow.  Although Angel doesn’t reveal much about herself and why she is in the correctional facility, Minnow opens up to her and tells her her story.  Angel spends most of her time reading and when she learns that Minnow can’t read she helps her to learn.  Another character that helps Minnow learn to read and shares her passion for books is one of the teachers, Miss Bailey.  Both Miss Bailey and Angel help to open up a new world for Minnow.  Dr Wilson, Minnow’s psychologist, is the most intriguing characters because you don’t quite know what his motives are.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is an amazing story that ends with a sense of hope.  It’s a book that I won’t forget and I’m sure to keep thinking about Minnow and what her life might be like after the story has finished.

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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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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 book trailer

The Watcher in the Shadows is the latest Young Adult book from one of my favourite authors, Carlos Ruiz Zafon. His books are eerie, atmospheric and mysterious and The Watcher in the Shadows has hooked me in after only a few pages.  It’s out now from Text Publishing.

I’m very excited to be going up for the Auckland Writer’s Festival on Saturday to hear Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  I’m really looking forward to hearing all about his books and getting some of my favourite books signed.

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House of Secrets by Chris Colombus and Ned Vizzini

Chris Coloumbus is the writer and director of some of my favourite movies, including Gremlins, The Goonies and Home Alone.  He’s a gifted storyteller for the screen who has now delved into the world of children’s books.  His first children’s book is House of Secrets, co-written by Ned Vizzini, and I was interested to see if his books were just as good as his movies.

A secret history… A mysterious family legacy… Dark magic of untold power… And three kids who will risk everything to bring a family back together. The Pagett kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games … But everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by a troubled fantasy writer with a penchant for the occult. Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Pagett family’s secret history and save their parents … and maybe even the world.

House of Secrets is an action-packed blockbuster of a book about three children who are transported into the world of fiction.  There’s something in this story to appeal to all kids – adventure, mystery, magic, witches, giants, warriors, pirates, and fictional characters coming to life. Most readers have wanted to actually be in the world of a story at some stage, and this is exactly what happens to Cordelia, Brendan and Eleanor (even if it was the last thing they wanted).

Chris and Ned have said that the story was originally going to be a screenplay for a movie, but they thought it would be too expensive to make so they adapted it into a book.  I thought this came through quite clearly as the story really reads like it should be a movie.  It’s quite fast-paced and there is lots of action so it will definitely keep kids’ attention.  I can see why it would have cost so much to make this story into a movie, because it’s quite epic and there would be huge special effects involved.  The house that the children find themselves transported in is much like the Tardis (‘it’s bigger on the inside’), with lots of hidden passageways, and it gets battered about by witches, giants and pirates.  There are many different fictional worlds, filled with different creatures and characters.

Although I loved the story and the way the authors kept the action moving along, I found the children quite stereotypical and a bit flat.  Within the first 10 pages you’ve had a detailed description of what the three children look like and how old they are, which just seemed a little bit forced to me.  I guess it’s probably a movie thing and they’re trying to give us a picture of the characters, but you don’t need to know everything about a character within the first few minutes.

The plot races along right to the end and leaves the story hanging for the next book in the series.  I’ll be looking forward to discovering what comes next for the Walker children.

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W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assassin book trailer

W.A.R.P. (Witness Anonymous Relocation Programme) is Eoin Colfer’s new series.  The Reluctant Assassin is the first book in the series and is released later this month by Penguin Books NZ.  It sounds like it’s going to be a great series and perfect for fans of his Artemis Fowl series.

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Phantom of Terawhiti by Des Hunt

Des Hunt is one of my favourite New Zealand authors because he writes action-packed adventure stories set in New Zealand.  The setting is always so important in his stories and Des has introduced Kiwi kids to parts our beautiful country that are both familiar and unexplored territory for them. In his latest book, Phantom of Terawhiti, Des takes us to Wellington’s wild southwest coast and introduces us to Zac, who stumbles on an interesting discovery.

It’s the school holidays and Zac thinks he might go crazy with boredom. He’s living in exile with his disgraced father on the remote Terawhiti Station on Wellington’s wild southwest coast. Then Zac and his dad witness a boat sink during a storm. Investigating further, Zac finds a set of unusual animal prints on the beach. Whose boat is it? And what creature could have made the prints? Soon armed men are prowling the coast, and threatening Zac, his friends and his family. He must do all he can to protect the Phantom of Terawhiti from those intent on hunting it down.

Phantom of Terawhiti is an action-packed adventure story, packed with mystery,  armed and angry Russians, brainless hunters, wild weather, a car chase, and a race against time.  Des Hunt is a gifted storyteller who never fails to write a story that grips readers and makes you keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.  In Phantom of Terawhiti there are plenty of heart-stopping moments, especially when Zac and Jess clash with the Russians.  The mystery of the ‘Phantom of Terawhiti’ draws you in and, even when the creature is revealed, you wonder how it will survive in the wild with the hunters trying to track it down.

Like the main characters in his other books, Zac and Jess are just normal Kiwi kids, who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or maybe the right place at the right time).  Zac gets dragged by his dad to come and live on the remote Terawhiti Station, and it’s while he’s here that he discovers the wreck of the yacht and the paw prints in the sand.  When they discover the Phantom of Terawhiti, Zac and Jess know that they must do everything they can to protect it.  Kiwi kids will relate to Zac and Jess and will imagine themselves in their shoes.

Phantom of Terawhiti is one of Des Hunt’s best books so far and I can’t wait to see where in the country he will take us to next.

4 out of 5 stars

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Cover Reveal – The Extraordinaires: The Subterranean Stratagem

The theatre can wait. First there’s a mystery to solve, not to mention a world to save . . .

Kingsley Ward and Evadne Stephens are the Extraordinaires and they should be the toast of the town – but their juggling and escapology act is failing, and Kingsley is to blame. His wolfish side is breaking free, ruining performances and endangering those around him. The secret to controlling this wildness lies in his mysterious past. Was he really raised by wolves? Who were his parents? What happened to them?

The discovery of Kingsley’s father’s journal promises answers, but when it is stolen the Extraordinaires uncover ancient magic, a malign conspiracy, and a macabre plot to enslave all humanity. What begins as a quest to restore Kingsley’s past becomes an adventure that pits the Extraordinaires against forces that could shatter the minds and souls of millions.

I’m a huge fan of Michael Pryor.  His Laws of Magic series was brilliant and his latest series, The Extraordinaires is set to be even better.  I reviewed the first book in the series, The Extinction Gambit here on the blog and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the second book.

The Subterranean Stratagem is out 2 April from Random House Australia.

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Night School: Legacy Book Trailer

Night School by C.J. Daugherty was one of those books which took me by surprise last year.  I didn’t know whether would be my cup of tea but I really enjoyed it (you can read my review and my interview with C.J. Daugherty here on the blog).  I’m can’t wait for the sequel, Night School: Legacy which is due out in NZ on 29 January.

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