Tag Archives: thriller

Broken Silence by Helen Vivienne Fletcher

I’ve read my fair share of adult thrillers.  Authors like Dean Koontz and Stieg Larsson have had me on the edge of my seat, reading as fast as I can to find out who did it and why.  I haven’t seen many YA thrillers though, especially not a New Zealand thriller for teens.  When Helen Vivienne Fletcher, a New Zealand author from Wellington, contacted me about reviewing her book I read the blurb and was immediately intrigued.  I needed to read this book about a teenage girl, coping with an abusive boyfriend (among other things) and the stranger on the end of the phone who offers to help.  Helen’s story absolutely lived up to the intriguing blurb and she had me hooked from the very first page.

static1.squarespace.com

A stranger just put Kelsey’s boyfriend in a coma. The worst part? She asked him to do it.

Seventeen-year-old Kelsey is dealing with a lot – an abusive boyfriend, a gravely ill mother, an absent father, and a confusing new love interest.

After her boyfriend attacks her in public, a stranger on the end of the phone line offers to help. Kelsey pays little attention to his words, but the caller is deadly serious. Suddenly the people Kelsey loves are in danger, and only Kelsey knows it.

Will Kelsey discover the identity of the caller before it’s too late?

Broken Silence is a pulse-pounding thriller, full of twists that keep you guessing.  Helen makes you second-guess yourself as you try to figure out who the mysterious caller is.  I can’t think of another book recently that has had me thinking about the story and the characters constantly.  When I wasn’t reading it I was worrying about Kelsey and what would happen next.

Kelsey doesn’t have an easy life.  Her dad walked out on the family, her mum is in a care home with dementia and her boyfriend, Mike, is abusive.  He talks down to her and can turn violent quickly, but will then come back apologising the next day.  He has the worst role model in a violent father who is most often drunk.  Kelsey lives with her brother, Pete, and his flat mates, Aiden and Ben.  One day Kelsey starts getting prank calls, with the person breathing heavily and not saying anything.  The calls escalate to the stage that it’s not just on the home phone and her cell phone, but also on the phone at Mike’s place.  When Mike gets violent after a party the person on the end of the phone offers to help Kelsey.  She tries to break up with Mike but he won’t let this happen and so he attacks Kelsey, leaving her with multiple injuries and unconscious.  When she wakes up in the hospital she learns that someone else attacked Mike and he is in a coma.  Things get even worse for Kelsey as the phone calls keep coming and she tries to figure out the identity of the caller.  As she found out with Mike, those closest to her are in danger unless she keeps quiet.  But how do you keep quiet when you just want the violence to stop and your life back?

Helen really knows how to build the tension and keep you guessing.  There are so many different possibilities of who the mysterious caller could be and I think this is because of the skillful way that Helen builds the characters.  As the story progresses we get to know more and more about the people in Kelsey’s life and this leads you to suspect that it could be this person or it could be that person.  Helen would make me think the caller was one particular character just by something they said or did, but then I would think it couldn’t possibly be them. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t see the ending coming.  The ending is pretty traumatic but there is still a touch of hope that things will get better.

Broken Silence is not the sort of story we see much of in YA fiction but I’d certainly like to see more.  It’s perfect for teens who want a gritty, edge-of-your-seat story but I also know that adults will love it too.  I’d love to see Broken Silence on book awards lists next year as it is certainly a winner with me.  I can’t wait to see what Helen Vivienne Fletcher writes next!

To find out more about Broken Silence or to purchase the book check out Helen’s website – helenvfletcher.com

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under books, New Zealand, New Zealand author, young adult, young adult fiction

The Special Ones by Em Bailey

Often a blurb hooks me in and the story is exactly what the blurb promises.  Very rarely though the story can be so much more than what the blurb promises.  The Special Ones by Em Bailey is one of these rare books.  It took me by surprise and was so much more than what I expected.

Special OnesHe keeps us here because we’re Special.

Esther is one of the Special Ones – four people who live under his protection in a remote farmhouse. The Special Ones are not allowed to leave, but why would they want to? Here, they are safe from toxic modern life, safe from a meaningless existence, safe in their endless work. He watches them every moment of every day, ready to punish them if they forget who they are – all while broadcasting their lives to eager followers on the outside.

Esther knows he will renew her if she stops being Special, and that renewal almost certainly means death. Yet she also knows she’s a fake. She has no ancient wisdom, no genuine advice to offer her followers. But like an actor caught up in an endless play, she must keep up the performance–if she wants to survive long enough to escape.

The Special Ones completely blew me away!  This is one incredibly exciting, twisty, nail-biting read.  It’s one of those books that, just when you think you know where the story is going, it takes a sharp turn and you have to take a moment for it to sink in.  You don’t want to put the book down because you have to know what happens next, but there are times that you just have to close it for a moment to breath.  There are so many twists that I had no idea how the book was going to end!

I don’t want to say too much about the story for fear of spoiling the story, but here goes.  It’s told from Esther’s point of view.  Esther, Harry, Felicity and Lucille are The Special Ones.  They have been ‘chosen’ by him to live in a cottage on a farm, living a simple life, but regularly communicating with their followers on the outside via the Internet.  They must live the life that he has laid out for them, and if they act in the wrong way they will be punished or even ‘renewed.’  Esther has lived like this for two years, but the life she has come to know changes dramatically when Lucille is renewed.

Em Bailey’s writing is very slick.  She keeps the tension throughout the story, building it towards the nerve-wracking finale.  Em makes you feel for the characters and the scary situation that they are in.  The story is told in the first person from Esther’s point of view so we know everything that she’s thinking and feeling.

The Special Ones is an addictive YA thriller and one of my favourite books of 2016.

Leave a comment

Filed under Australian YA, books, young adult, young adult fiction

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under books, family, young adult, young adult fiction

Interview with Jack Heath, author of The Cut-Out

Today I’m joined by Australian author Jack Heath.  Jack is the author of action-packed thrillers for children and young adults, including the Scream series from Scholastic, Money Run, The Hit-List and his first novel, The Lab.  Jack’s latest novel is The Cut-Out, a spy thriller about mistaken identities that is perfect for fans of the Cherub series and Alex Rider.  I had a few questions about Jack’s latest book and spies.  Jack very kindly answered my questions and you can read them here.

The Cut-Out is out now from Allen and Unwin.

What are 3 words that you would use to describe your new book, The Cut Out? Fast, frantic, fun.

Is the character of Fero based on who you wanted to be when you were a teenager?

Fero is everything I wasn’t – athletic, quiet, courageous. In some ways I wish I’d been more like him, but it’s those qualities that get him into so much trouble in The Cut Out!

In The Cut Out, Fero gets mistaken for enemy agent, Troy Maschenov.  Have you ever had a case of mistaken identity?

I have a brother who looks a bit like me, and sometimes people get us confused. Fortunately my brother isn’t a deadly foreign spy, or so he claims.

What is your favourite gadget in The Cut Out?

Definitely the Armoured Turbofan Vehicle, which is like a cross between a motorcycle and a tank.

What books and movies inspire your writing?

I love spy thrillers by Robert Ludlum and Olen Steinhauer. As for movies, some of my favourites include Tomorrow Never DiesTrue Lies and Mission Impossible 3.

Who is your favourite fictional spy?

I’m a big fan of reluctant spies, so I always loved Alex Rider. He got more interesting with every book!

Your first book, The Lab, was published when you were a teenager.  What advice do you have for young writers who want to get published?

I encourage all aspiring writers to join their local writers centre, to write something every day, and to read everything they can get their hands on.

Who would you recommend The Cut Out to?

The Cut Out is for anyone who likes shifting allegiances, big twists and lots of action.

Leave a comment

Filed under author interview, authors, young adult, young adult fiction

2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalist: The Nature of Ash by Mandy Hager

Mandy Hager’s The Nature of Ash is one of the finalists in the Young Adult category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  It was one of my favourite Young Adult books of 2012 so I’m really glad to see it as a finalist.  I reviewed it back in June last year, so if you want to hear all about it and find out what makes it such a worthy finalist, read on.

I love books with lots of action, but I also want to read about characters that I care about and can relate to.  Those books are the ones that make me keep reading furiously, just to make sure the characters make it to the end of the book alive.  I love books like Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner for this very reason, but there aren’t many books like this for teenagers set in New Zealand (Fleur Beale’s Juno series and Brian Falkner’s Tomorrow Code are the only ones that come to mind).  Mandy Hager has set a new standard in thrilling, action-packed stories for NZ teens with her new book, The Nature of Ash, and I’ll say it can proudly stand alongside these international, best-selling dystopian thrillers.

Ash McCarthy thought he finally had it made: away from home and all its claustrophobic responsibilities, he’s revelling in the freedom of student hostel life. But life is about to take a devastating turn, when two police officers knock on his door. Their life-changing news forces him to return home to his Down Syndrome brother Mikey, and impels him into a shady world of political intrigue, corruption, terrorism and lies . . . so many lies. As if this isn’t bad enough, the whole country is imploding, as the world’s two greatest super-powers start a fight that leaves New Zealand ‘piggy-in-the-middle’ of their deadly games. While trying to protect Mikey, along with strangers Travis and Jiao, his fight to uncover the truth turns into a nightmare race to save their lives and stop the destruction of all the principles he holds dear.

The Nature of Ash is an exciting, explosive, action-packed thriller that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.  From the first page I got caught up in Ash’s life and the horrific situation he finds himself in.  Mandy Hager has painted a picture of a future New Zealand that you could imagine turning from fiction into fact.  Our country is caught in the middle of a conflict between the two super powers of the world, the Western Alliance (USA, UK, Australia, Taiwan, Malaysian Federation, Republic of Indonesia, Peru) and the United People’s Republic (China, East Russia, United Korea, Japan, Republic of Indochina, Fiji, Chile).  Our Prime Minister is corrupt and will sell his loyalty to the highest bidder, there are protests, riots and looting breaking out all over the country, and food is running low.  In short, the country is falling apart and things keep getting worse.  In the middle of it all is Ash, who had gone to study in Christchurch, but gets called back to Wellington when a bomb explodes at his dad’s office.

In my opinion, Ash is one of the most authentic male teen characters in New Zealand fiction.  Mandy Hager is absolutely spot-on with Ash’s voice, his actions and decisions.  Sure, he swears, he drinks, and smokes some weed, but in the crappy situation that he’s in you can completely understand why he talks the way he does and makes those decisions.  He’s fiercely loyal to his family, especially his brother Mikey, who has Down Syndrome.  Even though it’s hard to look after Mikey and keep him calm and happy, Ash does all that he can to help him and protect him from harm.  I also loved Jiao and Travis, the other teenagers that escape from the city with them.  Jiao is an Asian girl who often looks after Mikey and is someone that he trusts (and has a bit of a crush on) and Travis is the son of policewoman Jeannie.  The group have some tense moments but they pull together when they need to.

The adult characters are a real mixed bag.  Ash and Mikey’s Dad is a very loving parent who really cares about his kids.  He’s always telling them he loves them and provides them with what they need.  Ash is left with no doubt that his father loves him and does all he can to protect them, even hiding secrets from them so they don’t need to worry.  There are many other adults who help them along the way, including Jeannie, Lucinda, Simon, and one of my favourite characters, Erich.  Then there are the immoral, sadistic characters, like the members of Muru, whose actions made me so angry.

Mandy Hager has created a story and characters that will stay with me long after I’ve put the book down.  I’m sure that teenage boys in particular will relate to Ash and his struggle to do what’s right.

5 out of 5 stars

Please note:  Ash uses some quite strong language (which I think is perfectly acceptable because of his situation) so please consider this if buying for your school library.  I would recommend the book for 13+.  Teaching notes are available through the Random House New Zealand website.

2 Comments

Filed under authors, books, New Zealand, young adult, young adult fiction

Interview with Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate

Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate are amazing authors in their own right, but when they combine their talents the result is the exciting, futuristic thriller, Eve and Adam.  They’ve written over 100 books together, including one of the coolest series from my childhood, Animorphs.  I was lucky enough to catch up with Michael and Katherine to ask them a few questions about Eve and Adam, and their collaborative writing process.

How does the collaborative writing process work for the two of you?

MG – Poorly.
KA –  Well, in the past.  Better this time.  It was actually pretty smooth.
MG — I’ve matured.

Did you write a character each for Eve and Adam?

KA –  That was one of the approaches we took, but quickly decided it didn’t work.  In order to do that we would need to be able to plan things out in advance.  Michael doesn’t plan.  I plan and then don’t follow my plan.
MG – The real story is that Katherine realized Eve would have a lot more scenes so she’d have to do more of the work.

Does it make it harder or easier writing collaboratively when you live in the same house?

MG – Much easier.  The commute is shorter.  It’s like three feet.
KA – Being in the same house means we can share a pot of coffee as opposed to writers who aren’t married who probably have to make twice as many pots.
MG – The horror.

The first sentence of Eve and Adam is explosive and totally hooks you.  Are the opening scenes of a book the hardest thing to write?

MG – We are very different on this.  I barely think about it because I know I’ll go back later and write something different.
KA – I need to have the opening right, even if it takes days.  Or weeks.
MG – Months.  Years.

Eve and Adam is so shocking because the story could be happening somewhere in the world right now. Was it a story that you did lots of research for before you started writing or is it purely from your imaginations?

MG – We both went out and got PhD’s.
KA – It really took a lot of commitment from Michael since he’s a high school drop-out.
MG – We attended the University of Google.
KA – College of Wikipedia.

If you could create the perfect version of yourself what would you change?

MG –  There was a time when I’d have said hair.  But that’s no longer an issue.  Honestly?  I’d be one of those people who can eat without gaining weight.
KA –  I have weak ankles.
MG – That is pathetic.  That’s all you’d change?  Weak ankles?
KA – There’s plenty of things about you I’d change.  I could make a list.
MG – I wouldn’t change anything about you.  Hah!  There, I trumped you and now people will think I’m the nice one.

Eve and Adam reads like it could be a standalone book or part of a new series.  Do you plan to write more about these characters?

KA –  There’s rumour of a sequel.

Enter my competition to win a copy of Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate.

4 Comments

Filed under authors, books, science fiction, young adult, young adult fiction

Slated by Teri Terry

Imagine waking up and having no idea who you are or where you are.  You learn that your memory has been wiped because you’re done something bad.  You’ve been given a second chance at life but you have what is effectively a bomb attached to your wrist.  If you get too angry, sad, or depressed you’ll start having seizures and die.  If you step out of line you could disappear and never be seen again, so in order to survive you must be a perfect citizen and follow the rules.  This is what life is like for Kyla in Teri Terry’s new book, Slated.

Kyla’s memory has been erased, her personality wiped blank, her memories lost for ever.

She’s been Slated.

The government claims she was a terrorist, and that they are giving her a second chance – as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth?

Slated is a tense, psychological thriller, that keeps you guessing and leaves you hungry for more.  In the future society of Slated, teenagers that are considered a danger to society are rehabilitated by having their memories wiped.  They have no idea of who they are or what they did to be Slated, and they’re adopted by a new family.  Every Slated has a Levo on their wrist which monitors their levels; if they get angry or scared, their levels drop and when they are happy their levels rise.  If levels get too low Slateds can black out and even die, so it is important to keep their levels mid-way or higher.  Kyla is different though, because she has horrible nightmares that have links to past events and anger has a strange affect on her levels.

If I had a Levo my levels would be pretty low because Teri’s story and some of the characters made me quite tense.   Like Kyla, you’re never really sure who to trust or who might be listening to her conversations. Teri keeps you guessing about why Kyla is different, why Kyla’s parents act so strange and what happens to the teenagers that disappear.  Teri answers some of these questions in Slated but leaves you hanging so you desperately want to read the next book, Fractured (coming in 2013).

4 out of 5 stars

Leave a comment

Filed under books, science fiction, young adult, young adult fiction

Slide by Jill Hathaway

Sometimes you read the synopsis of a book and you think ‘that’s brilliant!’  The premise of the story is something completely different and you want to start reading it straight away.  Slide by debut author, Jill Hathaway, was one of those books and I couldn’t wait to get into it (especially after I saw the great cover!).

Sylvia “Vee” Bell hates that, like her deceased mother, she has narcolepsy. But this embarrassing condition is nowhere near as bad as what happens during these episodes: when Vee passes out she actually slides into somebody else’s conciousness and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. This is how Vee finds herself in the head of a killer, standing over a classmate’s slashed and murdered body.

When another cheerleader turns up dead, Vee realizes that someone is killing off her sister’s friends. Suddenly everyone is a suspect, and Vee finds herself enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies and danger. She must face up to the fact that she can trust no one-not even the family and friends she thought she knew.”

Slide is a fast-paced thriller that keeps you guessing until the very end.  If narcolepsy wasn’t hard to deal with by itself, Vee also has this terrifying ‘gift’ that she also has to deal with.  Vee is a likeable character who has to cope with her condition by herself because everyone she has tried to tell thinks she is lying.  Her sliding often happens quite unexpectedly and she can’t stop it.  She often can’t tell who’s head she’ll end up in and it means she sometimes finds out the deepest secrets and fears of people she knows.  I really liked how Jill Hathaway made the connection between sliding and objects with some sentimental value attached, which meant that Vee’s sliding wasn’t just random.

Jill builds up the tension throughout the story, right up until the chilling climax.  Vee is the only one who knows the truth, but she can’t tell anyone she knows, and she’s afraid to talk to anyone in case that person is the killer.  I hadn’t picked the killer so the finale was even better.  My favourite part of the story was Vee’s realisation about her gift, as it gave her some hope that she could save her family.

Slide is a fantastic debut from Jill Hathaway and I’ll look forward to reading more from her in the future.

4 out of 5 stars

Leave a comment

Filed under authors, books, science fiction, young adult, young adult fiction

172 Hours on the Moon book trailer

172 Hours on the Moon is a chilling sci-fi thriller by Norwegian author Johan Harstad.  It’s a creepy, fast-paced read and I spent the whole day yesterday totally engrossed in it.  It’s out in NZ on April 1st and my review will follow soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under authors, book trailer, science fiction, young adult, young adult fiction

BZRK by Michael Grant

I often find myself reading books that are quite similar to one another.  I go through stages where I might read a lot of dystopian fiction or horror and they can end up blurring into each other.  But every now and again I read something that is completely different from everything I’ve read before.  It’s those books that stick in my mind and I remember years later.  I still remember being completely unsettled by The Speed of the Dark by Alex Shearer, which I read probably 10 years ago.  When Michael Grant made the claim on Twitter that BZRK is ‘unlike anything you’ve read before’ I believed him because he never fails to deliver an original story.

First of all, I’m not going to tell you much about the story as I think part of the experience of BZRK is figuring out what the hell is going on.  The story follows Sadie and Noah as they are recruited by a global organization called BZRK.  They are at war with another organization called the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation or AFGC.  Each side believes that they are right and that they are saving humanity.  The war is being fought where no-one can see – inside the human body.

BZRK is disturbing, creepy, action-packed and totally addictive.  Like the biots in the story, BZRK will get inside your head and you’ll constantly want to get back to reading it (that is if you don’t read it all in one go).  No-one writes quite like Michael Grant.  He’s given us a glance inside his dark and disturbing mind with the Gone series (which is one of my favourite series) but BZRK takes it to another level.  Trust me, you will never look at the human body quite the same again after reading this book.  BZRK has the right mix of action, violence, creepiness, and fast-paced writing that makes it a great guys read.  You should hand this book to any teenage male who is a reluctant reader and I guarantee it will hook them in and make them want to pick up anything by Michael Grant.  I will eagerly await the second book in this new series, but in the mean time, I’ll be reading the 5th book in the Gone series, Fear which is due out in April.

5 out of 5 stars

1 Comment

Filed under authors, books, science fiction, young adult, young adult fiction