Tag Archives: suspense

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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My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

There are some books that leave you feeling drained.  Those books that grab your heart and throw it all about and mess with your mind.  You get so emotionally invested in the characters’ lives that you feel their heartache, their turmoil and get completely blown away by the actions of the other characters.  Justine Larbalestier’s new YA book, My Sister Rosa is one of these books.  I can’t stop thinking about this incredible book.

MySisterRosa_RCcvr.indd‘I promise,’ said Rosa. ‘I won’t kill and I won’t make anyone else kill.’

I can’t see the loophole. Since the guinea pig there’s been nothing. Months now without Rosa killing as much as a mosquito.

As far as I know.

Che Taylor has four items on his list: 1. He wants to spar, not just train in the boxing gym. 2. He wants a girlfriend. 3. He wants to go home. 4. He wants to keep Rosa under control.

Che’s little sister Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and so good at deception that Che’s convinced she must be a psychopath. She hasn’t hurt anyone yet, but he’s certain it’s just a matter of time. And when their parents move them to New York City, Che longs to return to Sydney and his three best friends. But his first duty is to his sister Rosa, who is playing increasingly complex and disturbing games. Can he protect Rosa from the world – and the world from Rosa?

This is one word for this book – WOW!  It is the most tense YA book I’ve ever read with possibly the creepiest 10 year old girl you’ll ever find in a book.  I didn’t want to put this book down because I was afraid that something huge would happen when I wasn’t looking.

There are times when I’ve finished a book that I wish I could wipe my memory of reading it, just so I could read it again and feel exactly what I felt that first time.  My Sister Rosa made me feel exactly like this.  It is such a full-on read, with so many twists, and I don’t think it would feel the same reading it a second time.  The suspense I felt and the way that my heart broke for Che is something that I rarely find in a book.  It just shows what an amazing job Justine has done of making her characters real and relatable.

The story is told from Che’s point of view.  He has known what his sister is like for years and he has tried to keep her in check.  She seems cute and sweet on the outside but inside she’s nasty and poisonous.  She works out how she should behave from watching and listening to other people.  She promises Che that she will be good but she knows how to stretch the boundaries.  While Che is keeping all eyes on his sister, he is also trying to adjust to life in another new city, working on his boxing, making new friends and trying to get a girlfriend.  All of these things collide to make one hell of a book!

Reading this book is like watching a train wreck.  You know that something really horrible is going to happen but you can’t look away.  You’re glued to the pages and flicking them so fast because you need to know what is going to happen.

Rosa is both a horrifying yet fascinating character.  You know she is psychopathic but you want to know more about her and the things that she does.  As a parent she certainly makes you thankful that your own children aren’t like her, and it makes you wonder what life would be like if she was your child.  I kept thinking that the way her parents reacted to her actions were unbelievable, but it also makes you think how you would react too.

I’ve read so many great books so far this year but My Sister Rosa is by far my favourite.  Put My Sister Rosa on the top of your to-be-read pile.  You won’t regret it.

 

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Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

‘My dad died twice.  Once when he was thirty-nine, and again four years later when he was twelve. (He’s going to die a third time as well, which seems a bit rough on him. but I can’t help that.)’

With this first paragraph, Ross Welford immediately grabs you and takes you on a wild ride through time in his brilliant (and brilliantly titled) new book, Time Travelling with a Hamster.

Time Travelling

On Al Chaudhury’s twelfth birthday his beloved Grandpa Byron gives him a letter from Al’s late father. In it Al receives a mission: travel back to 1984 in a secret time machine and save his father’s life.

Al soon discovers that time travel requires daring and imagination. It also requires lies, theft, setting his school on fire and ignoring philosophical advice from Grandpa Byron. All without losing his pet hamster, Alan Shearer

Time Travelling with a Hamster is a funny, fresh take on time travel about a boy who would do anything to get his father back.  This book has all the elements of a truly great book – humour, suspense, action, wonderful characters, and lots of heart.  It makes you laugh, cry  and nervously chew your nails.

This is the perfect time travel book for kids (and adults who love the idea of time travel).  Ross brings his own ideas about time travel into the story and makes it easy enough for kids to understand, without dumbing-down the ideas.  The time machine that Al’s dad built is not quite what Al imagined a time machine would look like.  It is very simple – a laptop connected to a tin tub.  Even something this small creates its own problems when traveling back in time.  My favourite aspect of Ross’s idea of time travel is ‘Dad’s Law of Doppelgangers.’ Al’s dad explains in a letter to him that ‘an object (or person) may occupy the same dimension of spacetime ONLY ONCE.’  When Al travels back in time he realises that he ‘cannot go back to the same place and time that I was before: it has already been occupied – is already occupied – by me.’ As you can imagine this causes a few problems for Al.

It is a nerve-wracking story at times.  There are times in the story that I was holding my breath, wondering how Al was going to get out of a certain situation.  As with all time travel stories, little things that are changed in the past can have dramatic effects in the future.  Al’s actions have quite dramatic effects on his life and you can’t help putting yourself in his shoes, wondering if you would have done the same.

While it is nerve-wracking at times, there is also a lot of heart in this story.  Al misses his dad, who died much too soon.  When he gets the chance to go back in time to save him, Al steps into the unknown and does what his dad asks.  Al loves his family and if he can bring them back together again he will.  The relationships between the males in Al’s family are very strong, especially between Al and his Grandpa Byron.  Al looks up to Grandpa Byron, who is wise, caring and has an incredible sense of humour.  Grandpa Byron was the character that really stood out for me.

Ross Welford is an author that I’ll be watching.  I can’t wait to see what he writes next!

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Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar is an exciting author.  He’s not prolific but when he does publish a book it’s always something to shout about.  My first Louis Sachar book (and probably his most popular) was Holes, the story of Stanley Yelnats and Camp Green Lake.  It totally grabbed me and is still one of my favourite books.  Louis’ last book, The Cardturner, was a fascinating book about bridge and family secrets.  It’s been 5 years since his last book, so I was very excited to hear about Louis Sachar’s new book, Fuzzy Mud.  After reading his previous books and having high expectations I wasn’t disappointed.

Tamaya is on a scholarship to the prestigious Woodridge Academy and every day she and seventh-grader Marshall walk to school together. They never go through the woods. And when they arrive at school they stop talking to each other – because Marshall can’t be seen to be friends with a little kid like Tamaya. Especially not with Chad around. Chad-the-bully, who makes Marshall’s life utterly miserable. But today, hoping to avoid Chad, Marshall and Tamaya decide to go through the woods … And what is waiting there for them is strange, sinister and entirely unexpected. The next day, Chad doesn’t turn up at school – no one knows where he is, not even his family. And Tamaya’s arm is covered in a horribly, burning, itchy wound. As two unlikely heroes set out to rescue their bully, the town is about to be turned upside down by the mysterious Fuzzy Mud.

 

Fuzzy Mud is a weird, thrilling, suspenseful story about friendship, bullies and an experiment gone wrong.  Louis Sachar keeps you on the edge of your seat as the suspense builds right to the end.  It’s slightly creepy and I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to end.   Like each of Louis’ books there are several strands to the story.  What at first seems like just a school story about fitting in and bullies making life hell, soon becomes a quite different story with far worse problems.  The story of Tamaya and Marshall is interspersed by extracts from an inquiry into a place called SunRay Farm, a research facility not far from their school, that was creating an organism that would be used to make a bio-fuel to help save the planet.  These extracts show you that their experiments didn’t quite go as planned.  When Tamaya discovers the fuzzy mud in the forest when she is helping Marshall escape the school bully, the consequences are disastrous.  Could an organism that was designed to help people actually harm or even kill people instead?

The book has got one of the coolest covers I’ve seen recently and it is sure to grab the attention of kids.  The design of the book is very clever too.  I wasn’t quite sure what all the dots at the top of the chapter headings were to start off with but this became clear as I kept reading.  I think it’s kind of quirky and a nice touch.

Fuzzy Mud would be a great read-aloud for kids aged 10 and up.  Not only is it a thrilling story that will keep kids entertained, but it’s also thought-provoking.  What would you do if you found a weird substance in the forest? How would you react if the kid who was bullying you suddenly disappeared?

If you love Louis Sachar or just want a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, grab a copy of Fuzzy Mud now.

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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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Through Dead Eyes by Chris Priestley

One of my favourite genres of stories for children and teens is horror.  There weren’t many of these types of book around when I was younger, but there is plenty to choose from these days, from Derek Landy and Joseph Delaney, to Darren Shan and Barry Hutchison.  Chris Priestley is an author of spooky, chilling and creepy stories that I’ve been reading more of lately and his latest book, Through Dead Eyes is a new favourite.

Alex joins his father on a business trip to Amsterdam. During the day he hangs out with the daughter of a family friend. They visit the usual sights but also coffee shops and flea markets off the beaten track. At one of these markets Alex spots an ancient-looking mask. Before he knows what he’s doing he buys it. Later, in his hotel room, he feels compelled to put the mask on. Alex is sucked into a parallel Amsterdam, one from centuries before which begins to reveal the dark past of both the building he is staying in and the little girl who once lived there edging stealthily towards the terrible twist.

Through Dead Eyes is a chilling ghost story that haunts you long after you’ve turned the last page.  I read it on a wet and dreary day which added to the chilling tone.   Chris Priestley really knows how to keep the reader on edge throughout the story.  The thing I love the most about Chris’s writing is that there are lots of twists that you don’t see coming, especially towards the end of the story, and he leaves you with a feeling of unease.  You know that, even though the story has finished, things are not right in the life of the characters.  Like any good ghost story you get pieces of the puzzle as the story progresses and you’ve got to figure out how they all fit together.  You just hope that the main character solves the puzzle before it’s too late.

The setting of Amsterdam adds to the eerie feeling of the story, because Alex is surrounded by so much history.  The buildings are hundreds of years old and they would hold many stories.  Alex is drawn to the history of the hotel he is staying in and the strange feelings he has inside his room.  This history and the connection between the mask and the paintings draw you in to the story.

The cover is fantastic and captures the tone of the story perfectly.  It was the cover, with the mottled and cracked surface, and the creepy eye, that grabbed my attention and made me pick it up.

Through Dead Eyes is great for readers aged 11+ who like to give themselves a good scare.

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Seven Wonders: The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis

Imagine that you were told that you woke up on a mysterious island, a place that few people know even exists, and told that you have six months to live.  You’re told that you have a special gene that gives you amazing powers, but the only way to keep those powers under control and keep you alive is to retrieve seven lost magical orbs.  These orbs have been hidden in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and it’s up to you and your new friends to retrieve them before it’s too late.  This is the task that is given to Jack McKinley in Peter Lerangis’ new series, Seven Wonders. The first book in the Seven Wonders series, The Colossus Rises is out now.

The day after twelve-year-old Jack McKinley is told he has six months to live, he awakens on a mysterious island, where a secret organization promises to save his life – but with one condition. With his three friends, Jack must lead a mission to retrieve seven lost magical orbs, which, only when combined together, can save their lives. The challenge: the orbs have been missing for a thousand years, lost among the ruins and relics of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. With no one else to turn to and no escape in sight, the four friends have no choice but to undertake the quest. First stop: The Colossus of Rhodes … where they realise that there’s way more at stake than just their lives.

The Colossus Rises is an action-packed blockbuster of a book. From the first sentence you’re hooked into the story and, like Jack, you’re whisked from your normal, everyday life into a strange new world.  You’re taken to a place of legend, home to mysterious creatures, and where a group of kids have amazing powers.  The mystery of the unique gene that Jack and his friends have and the magical orbs draws you in and you keep reading hoping to find the answers.  Peter Lerangis is very good at only revealing little details throughout the story to leave you hanging and we’ll find out more as the series progresses.  There is definitely more to the island and their quest that Professor Bhegad isn’t revealing to Jack and his friends (if you read the free ebook prequel, The Select, you’ll see what I mean).

Peter really keeps you on the edge of your seat.  There is danger around every corner so you never know what to expect next.  I wasn’t even sure that Jack and his friends were all going to make it to the end of the story alive, as they have some very close shaves.  The second half of the book is especially exciting and fast-paced and had me engrossed in the story.

Like the Percy Jackson books The Colossus Rises is a mixture of adventure and fantasy.  Jack and his friends have powers that help them in in their quest to find the orbs and the island is home to mysterious and mythical creatures.  They have to fight for their lives with these creatures, both on the island and on the other side of the world, in plain view of normal humans.

Seven Wonders is sure to be a hugely popular series and I certainly can’t wait for the next book in the series, Lost in Babylon.  The Seven Wonders website is awesome and definitely worth a look too (especially for the free ebook prequel, The Select).

4 out of 5 stars

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The Phoenix Files: Fallout by Chris Morphew

Chris Morphew’s Phoenix Files is one of my favourite series.  I got in to them last year before Chris came to New Zealand for the Storylines Family Day in Christchurch last year, and I was hooked from the first page of Arrival.  They’ve got the perfect mix of action, suspense, mystery and science fiction that make them hard to put down.  Fallout is the fifth book (in the six book series) and has just been released in Australia and New Zealand.  Chris doesn’t waste any time getting straight back into the action and rocketing you along to the end of the world.

The Shackleton Building has been turned into a concentration camp, and the last free people in Phoenix have been forced into hiding. Unless Jordan and the others can figure out where the Co-operative is keeping Tobias, everything they’ve fought for will be for nothing.

As Peter spins further out of control, can Jordan find a way to save Luke’s life, or is history doomed to repeat itself?

With only weeks left until Tabitha is released, Phoenix’s biggest secrets are still yet to be revealed.

And the clock is still ticking.

There are 14 days until the end of the world.

To tell you much about the story would only spoil it for everyone, but I will say this – Fallout is the best book in the series so far.  It’s action-packed, explosive and there are shocks galore.  Chris answers a lot of those burning questions you’ve had about Phoenix right from the start and leaves you on the edge of your seat at the very end.  We haven’t seen much of Shackleton in the last couple of books but he comes back in all his sadistic glory in Fallout.  He’s the best villain since Mayor Prentice in Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy.  He’s one of those guys you just want to punch in the face because he makes you so angry.  I’ve read the last 3 books one after another and I wish I could just keep reading and find out how it all ends, but I’ll have to wait until 2013 for Doomsday.

5 out of 5 stars

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Fracture by Megan Miranda

Twitter has been a great tool for me to find out about hot new books and great new authors to try.  Every now and again a book comes along and it seems that everyone is raving about it, reviewing it and spreading the word.  Megan Miranda’s Fracture was one of those books recently and I wanted to know what all the buzz was about.  I just read the blurb (because I can’t bring myself to read a review of a book before I actually read it) and was intrigued by the idea.  I got my hands on a copy and surfaced a couple of days later with this eerie, captivating story in my head.

After falling into the icy waters of a frozen lake, Delaney Maxwell is officially dead for eleven minutes.  Rescued by her friends, she is taken to hospital and falls into a coma, from which she is not expected to wake.  Then, miraculously, she regains consciousness with few signs of damage to her brain.  According to the doctors she should be a cabbage, but she seems to be fully functioning.  But Delaney knows that something is very wrong.  She is pulled by forces outside of her control and starts to have a series of seizures.  Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying, but she doesn’t know if she is predicting death or causing it.  As she struggles to come to terms with these strange feelings, she is drawn to the mysterious Troy Varga who seems to know what she is going through.  Troy knows the truth about her ‘gift’ but will Delaney use it as Troy suggests or take a different path?

Fracture is a dark, eerie story that will keep you turning the pages to discover the truth.  Megan had me guessing right up until the very end and I wasn’t even sure it was going to end on a positive note for a while.  I love it when an author holds onto the mystery or the secret right up until the end of the story, because it makes you want to keep reading (and reading furiously) to discover how it all ends.  The story reminded me, both in the setting and the dark tone, of something written by Dean Koontz or John Connolly.  Megan really put you in Delaney’s shoes and I kept asking myself if I would have done the same in her situation.  Delaney has to come to terms with her ‘gift,’ as well as figuring out how she feels about Carson, Decker, Troy, and her parents, so Megan made us feel Delaney’s pain, jealousy, grief, anger, and love.  Troy was one of the hardest character to try and figure out.  I wasn’t really sure of what his motives were, and even when I did, I wasn’t sure that they were right.  He almost seemed like Delaney’s shadow as he always seemed to be there, even when she was sleeping.  I have to applaud Megan for writing one of the most heart-wrenching scenes I’ve read in a while.  I won’t say much, because I hate spoilers, but it involves Carson and Delaney.  Let’s just say I had to put the book down for a few minutes afterwards.

I’m sure Fracture will haunt me for days to come and will have me wondering what I would do if I only had a day left to live.

4 out of 5 stars

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