Tag Archives: Mysteries

Before the Beginning – Anna Morgan

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Hachette

SEP 29, 2020 | 9780734419651 | RRP $19.99

In a tweet when I mentioned I was reading this – and reading WAY past my bedtime because I was so engrossed – Anna Morgan replied “This book will disturb your sleep schedule” is an excellent review!

Well all I can say is that it definitely will!!! Right from the get-go this one will have your YA readers hooked and tuned out to all that’s going on around them as they become drawn into a schoolies week like no other.

Grace has been a very committed Christian since an early age but when it comes down to schoolies week she realises that the prejudices and intolerance of her church friends are not what she wants for a whole week away. Instead she decides to tag along (and be the chauffeur, organiser and carer) for her brother Casper and his two great friends, Noah and Elsie. Casper is procrastinating on getting his portfolio for art school put together, Noah’s anxiety over ATAR and his future, fueled by pressure from his parents, is consuming him and Elsie, who knows she’s no stellar academic, is just trying to hold their friendship group together.

On the first night of their trip at a fairly typical schoolies beach party the group encounters a beautiful but mysterious girl who seems to have some kind of persuasive power that is irresistible. Sienna convinces the friends to go camping with her on the uninhabited island not far offshore. But the camping sojourn soon unravels into increased uncertainties, negative emotions and friendship fractures for them all – worse, it becomes increasingly apparent that Sienna’s motives are far from friendly and the mystery that surrounds her past is sinister in the extreme. Soon it is not just their friendships that are in danger but their very existence. These characters are very believable and the action flows so beautifully as the plot, and the mystery, unfolds.

Drawing on legends of the sirens and the powers they held over travelers, this is a coming-of-age story that combines suspense and thrilling action with the qualms that all school-leavers have and provides a very satisfying reading experience for those students who are facing the future with their own questions.

Highly recommended for your senior readers, this is a must have for your collection. Check out Five Minutes with Anna Morgan and the teaching notes.

When This Bell Rings – Allison Rushby

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Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781760651947
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Release Date: September 2, 2020
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

I have many fans of Allison’s books – The Mulberry Tree, The Turnkey and The Seven Keys – who have already been pouncing on this latest of the author’s mysteries. Once again the narrative takes the reader into an almost recognisable parallel world when young Tamsin offers her literary hero Edie St Clair her help in finishing the final of her best-selling series London of the Bells.

Tamsin lives next door to the celebrated author and often watches her comings and goings while drawing, with passion, the colourful characters from the books. In fact, she has drawn them all so many times she feels she knows them intimately and would love to be counted among their number. To her great astonishment she discovers that Edie can literally draw herself into the books and when the author goes missing, Tamsin realises she must be actually caught up in the unfinished final book. Burning to prove herself a worthy friend, Tamsin draws herself into the narrative and finds herself right in the thick of all the dangerous action alongside her beloved character friends. She quickly realises that she is perhaps the only person in London who can help Edie find the perfect ending to the last book – one that will satisfy both readers and more importantly to Tamsin, her fictional friends. Young readers will be turning the pages eagerly to discover all the secrets, twists and turns and surprising developments as the plot unravels.

Many of you will have already added this new title to your collection but in case you haven’t it’s a great addition to your 2021 orders list for readers, both boys and girls, from around ten years upwards. I highly recommend it for your lovers of strange mysteries.

Murder Most Unladylike #8: Top Marks for Murder – Robin Stevens

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9780241348383

Penguin

August 2019

ISBN: 9780241348383

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

Yes there are seven previous books but this series has been somewhat of a ‘sleeper’ in my library. Now, however, due to the enthusiasm of several devoted fans it is steadily growing in its popularity. I know that this newest volume will be avidly sought after and the reservation list will be frustrating for some of my girls.

Deepdean School for Girls might seem to be an innocent place but that’s never the case and the current state of affairs is no exception. When Daisy and Hazel return after their absence the place is humming with anticipation of the Anniversary Weekend but parents begin to arrive and poisoning sends shock ripples throughout the school. Everything seems to point to a parent being the guilty party and the girls are fearful that if the perpetrator is not caught, Deepdean might cease to exist altogether.

As always this is almost like a very dark and deadly Malory Towers but the power of ‘school stories’ is always evident. When some murder is thrown in amongst a gang of smart and sassy girls there’s bound to be loads of excitement, suspense and clever detection work to be had – an irresistible combination for my middle school readers!

Love Lie Repeat – Catherine Greer

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loveliverepeat

Penguin

9780143791225

March 5, 2019

$19.99

I’ve mentioned before that I have in recent times been somewhat disenchanted with many of the YA novels that have come my way. There have been a few exceptions. This one, debut novel and all, is an absolute corker!

Annie and her ‘island girls’ (the kind you take with you to a desert island), Ashlin and Ruby have been a threesome forever. They are bonded so closely that nothing could ever tear them apart. While their family lives may be complex in one sense with divorces, absent fathers, family secrets they lead privileged lives with money, fashion and solid support.

When Ashlin’s hitherto unknown half-brother, Trip, arrives from Canada, asked to leave his school due to some unexplained arson attacks, the girls’ previously tight bonds of friendship begin to fray in varying degrees. Annie’s burgeoning relationship with Trip seems destined to follow some kind of roller-coaster experience as she repeatedly trusts him, rejects him, reconciles with him. Ashlin’s secret sexual identity begins to reveal itself while Ruby, ignoring Annie’s obvious interest in Trip, starts throwing herself at the boy with little regard for her friend.

Into this mix of emotional angst are the girls’ usual activities of sport, singing, holidays and fashion but all of these seem to be overcast by some sinister atmosphere and more frighteningly, inexplicable random fires.

Greer has put together an intense and gripping narrative with many twists and turns and the ending is not to be missed.

Given its fairly adult themes this is not a book I would recommend for your younger teens but I have no hesitation in promoting it to senior secondary students.

Shadow of the Centaurs- Saviour Pirotta

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Bloomsbury

January 2019

 

ISBN: 9781472940254
Imprint: Bloomsbury Education

RRP: $14.99

centaurs

This is the fourth in this series but my first foray into the ancient world of scribe Nico and his slave friend Thrax who have become somewhat adept in solving most peculiar mysteries but it certainly won’t be the last. I loved the unravelling of the problem/s, the humour throughout, the characters and the revelations of everyday life in Ancient Greece.

Nico and Thrax along with all the other citizens of Athens are eagerly anticipating the imminent festival of Anthesteria (similar to All  Hallows’ Eve) with its accompanying spookiness and possibility of spirits roaming – oh, and lavish decadent feasting.

But before the boys can even begin to relax and enjoy the festivities they are confronted with the spectre of the Society of the Centaurs, a group dedicated to the destruction of Athens and all it represents.

Readers will find this very engaging with loads of humour and intrigue and despite themselves will learn much about life in ancient times.

A hugely enjoyable read well worth promoting to your readers aged from around eight years upwards.

 

Wakestone Hall (Stella Montgomery #3) – Judith Rossell

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stella

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9780733338205

ISBN 10: 0733338208

Imprint: ABC Books – AU

On Sale: 22/10/2018

List Price: 24.99 AUD

 

I’m so very sad – not because the book was disappointing you understand but because I am going to miss Stella a lot *sad face*. I suspect I won’t be the only one. I know many young, and not so young, readers who have followed Stella’s journey avidly.

From book one we’ve watched as Stella has grown from a sad and beleaguered young orphan rigidly ruled over by the ‘aunts’ to a brave girl discovering her own story – one that is filled with love and magic and the support of friends.

Now the aunts have packed her off to Wakestone Hall, their old school (and her mother’s) which is cheerless and inhospitable and where it is expected her wilful disobedience will be curtailed. Little do they know that Stella will bond with two other abandoned girls and, ignoring such stupidity as cruel rules, together they will squash a nasty plot and thwart some dark magical forces. For Stella, it will lead to so much more but that would be telling.

More than anything, Stella – like everyone else – wants to belong, to a family, to ones who love her for herself and it is through her own daring that she finds her heart’s desire.

Thank you Judith Rossell for the pleasure of Stella. It has been a little harrowing at times but all is well with her world – and that’s what we wanted.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma [#14] – Jacqueline Harvey

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clemmie14

Penguin Random House

9780143780595

December 3, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP: $14.99

Clemmie is back with not only a new adventure but also some new and exciting family news!

Penberthy House is busier than ever now that Lady Clarissa and Drew are married, which means that Clemmie has a new step-brother in Will. Also of course, there’s been the revelation of Clemmie’s biological mother, Clarissa’s cousin Eliza – daughter of Great-Aunt Violet- and Clementine is still adjusting to calling the old lady Granny.  There’s also the weirdness of Granny and Uncle Digby being so ‘nice’ to each other – what’s that about? Even more so Mummy is not well. She keeps feeling sick and needing to rest – what on earth can be wrong with her? Just as the most exciting event is about to happen as well – The Great Village Bake-Off is about to staged right in Penberthy Floss!

There is keen competition for the title of winner and Clementine is super happy that there is to be a kid’s competition as well. She is spending lots of time practising some very interesting cake ideas. When the actual competition begins though there are numerous inexplicable disasters from flopped cakes to broken ovens. Someone is sabotaging the bake-off! Nobby and Florence Loveberry, the show’s hosts seem to think this is quite normal but Clementine and Will are quite sure that someone is up to mischief and of course, are determined to solve the mystery.

Fortunately there is a happy outcome (of course) and not only is the bake-off puzzle resolved but also the problem of Mummy’s sickness. She’s not sick at all – she’s pregnant! Wow! Clemmie and Will are going to have a little brother or sister to play with.

Clementine Rose has established herself as a huge favourite with the younger readers and this delicious episode will, no doubt, take the cake with them all! I foresee an upswing in my usual Book Week cooking competition as a result once my girls get their hands on it!

This is such a happy series with delightful characters and a great sense of family solidity. It’s no wonder these books are never on the shelves of the library and are so highly sought after in the returns line!

Highly recommended for readers from around seven years upwards.

The Chocolate Factory Ghost – David O’Connell

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Bloomsbury

ISBN: 9781408887066
ISBN-10: 1408887061
Series: The Dundoodle Mysteries
Published: 1st May 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

RRP; $12.99

Archie McBudge has lucky underpants. He knows he does because he and his mum have just discovered that Archie has inherited a huge mansion, a famous sweets factory and more from his Great-Uncle Archibald. What makes this even more astonishing is that neither Archie nor his mum even knows the old man existed until this moment.

Anyone might think this is a recipe for a very happy ending with a full stop but not so as Archie discovers that there is definitely something sinister, spooky and even supernatural going on at Honeystone Hall. Luckily his new albeit odd friends Fliss and Billy are ready and willing to help Archie unravel the complexities of flying letters leading to cryptic clues, strange artefacts, and horrible twin Piglet cousins not to mention finding the secret ingredient on which McBudge’s famous fudge depends.

Lots of fun for readers from around eight years upwards. There will be plenty of laughs as well as a few creepy moments – just the right balance of both!

Check out David O’Connell’s webpage here for more information, teaching notes and a fun activity pack.

Missing – Sue Whiting

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missing

Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781760650032
Imprint: Walker Books Australia

March 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99
Right from the get-go this novel is full on with its action, mystery and poignancy. Thirteen year old Mackenzie is at a difficult time in her life leaving primary school and off to a private girls’ high school away from friends. A tough time for any young girl but all the more when your mother has gone missing on a scientific expedition and has not been heard of for months.

 

Kenzie’s father has been an absolute mess since the disappearance, her grandmother sad but resigned and Kenzie herself has managed to convince herself that the only explanation that fits is that her mother has been placed in a witness protection programme.

 

Now 116 days after her mother’s disappearance her father has taken Kenzie to Panama in a desperate attempt to find his wife.  Kenzie is just as desperate not to solve the mystery in her conviction that it will bring about a dire result for her mum.

 

Jungles, bats, strange food and customs, dead ends, unhelpful police and a father who behaves like a crazed person – it’s all too much to bear. But circumstances have a way of unfolding at their own pace and when Kenzie’s dad ends up in hospital with typhus she and her new acquaintance Carlo take matters into their own hands following an unexpected lead.

 

This is a completely gripping read – a real page turner with believable characters and emotions. On a personal note, as a Shire girl, it was somehow intriguing to read of Kenzie catching a train from Kogarah or shopping at Westfield Hurstville – my old stomping grounds but it is the fast-paced plot and the slowly unfurling chain of events that keep the reader intrigued right to the very end.

Highly recommended for readers in  Upper Primary/Lower Secondary.

 

Triple Treat: Jacqueline Harvey, Belinda Murrell and R. A. Spratt

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Such fun to open parcels with books from the most popular authors in my library – and my literary circle! The titles from this trio are highly sought after among my readers and there is always much exchanging in the returns line up with ‘She had this but I want to borrow it next’.

To make it an even more interesting mix there is a beginning, a ‘middle’ and, sadly, an ending.

Kensy and Max #1: Breaking News – Jacqueline Harvey

K&M

9780143780656

February 26, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $16.99

Without a doubt, Jacqueline Harvey has the girls from 7 to teens eating out of the palm of her hand with her Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda series.  And if you have not had the pleasure of Jacqueline presenting at your school I suggest that you do as she is without doubt the most energetic and engaging author I’ve seen in action.

Now Jacqueline has turned her considerable talents to a series pitched at both boys and girls with a hugely popular premise – espionage! Kensy and Max are twins both alike and also very different. They are well used to living all over the globe as their parents, apparently, are first responders in both tourist resorts and in crisis/humanitarian situations. However, when the pair finds themselves in a completely strange house with only their ‘manny’ Fitz in loco parentis things being to turn very mysterious indeed with their parents missing in a civil revolt and house inhabitants who are both strange and yet oddly familiar.

The two are in turn baffled and curious and begin to piece puzzle pieces together of their own initiative. It would seem that MI6 is a ‘family’ thing!

This new series has both memorable characters and believable circumstances which will thoroughly intrigue readers from around 8 years upwards. I don’t need to use my considerable powers of ESP to predict that this will be as big a winner as Jacqueline’s other series.

Highly recommended for readers from mid-primary up – get it on your shelves ASAP!

 

Pippa’s Island #3: Kira Dreaming – Belinda Murrell

pippa3

9780143783701

January 2, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $14.99

 

Without fail, if I put a Belinda Murrell book, whether Lulu Bell or one of the time slip series into a girl’s hands, I have her hooked from that moment. I’d like to think it’s my skill as a teacher-librarian but really its Belinda’s talent at knowing exactly what will grab her readers!

 

This is the third in her latest series and already I have girls clamouring for the next so this will be a huge hit when school goes back. There is something just purely delightful and happy about Pippa and her friends and family, even though there are serious moments e.g. Pippa’s absent dad. This doesn’t detract as I believe so many children can relate to the ambivalence about a parent who has absconded from the family. It’s difficult for them to reconcile their own love for that parent and the feeling of rejection/abandonment.

In this new episode, the Sassy Sisters are entering the school talent quest and while Pippa’s besties, Cici, Meg and Charlie are rapt about this opportunity, Pippa has real problems with her stage fright. Unexpectedly, it is this which provides a catalyst for Pippa to resume some ‘friendly’ relations with her MIA father.

These stories are fabulous narratives about real life situations to which readers can relate – despite the fact that they may not live on a tropical island!

Again, highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards and if you’ve missed the first two, put them on your ‘to buy’ list as well!

 

Friday Barnes #8: Never Fear – R. A. Spratt

fridayfinal

9780143784203

January 2, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $15.99

 

When I gently broke the news to my avid Friday readers that the forthcoming book would be the last in the series there was full scale caterwauling and gnashing of teeth. The only thing that saved me from literary lynching was the promise of a new series in the pipeline – whew!

 

I’ve mentioned this before. I love Friday! I love her geekiness, her gauche-ness, her daggy clothes and social ineptitude.

 

Highcrest Academy has a new principal and she is one seemingly mean and shockingly capable young woman. She promptly promotes Friday to Year 12 to ‘extend’ her and Friday is convinced that this means she’s just one step away from being ousted from what she regards as her home.

Along with this is the persistent rumour of long hidden gold somewhere in the school grounds and when implosions and explosions begin to disrupt the regular (!!) routine of Highcrest everyone is on edge.

 

Some huge questions are answered in this final volume. Will Friday ever kiss Ian? Can Melanie stay awake long enough to observe it? Who will still be a student in the academy at the end of year? Is the new principal who she says she is or an imposter? And will Friday ever kiss Ian? 😉

 

There will be some sad faces at this the final Friday chapter but reassure your readers that more great stuff is on its way from R. J. Spratt’s imaginative mind!

Highly recommended for readers from around mid-primary upwards.