Tag Archives: Mystery

Goodly and Grave in a Bad Case of Kidnap – Justine Windsor

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Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780008183530

Imprint: HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks

May 2017

Lucy Goodly has been won in a game of cards against the strange Lord Grave, despite the fact that she has a  magical card to help her win. Her parents are inveterate gamblers – unsuccessful ones at that – and this time they have lost their only child who is now to be the new boot girl at Grave Hall.

Lucy finds some weird characters at the Hall including the bearded cook Mrs Crawley and Vonk the butler but also discovers a new friend in Violet the little scullery maid. However, there are strange things happening at this grand estate with its grounds filled with exotic animals.

As Lucy tries her best to figure out a way to escape her circumstances, news reports of missing children are increasing and when Violet too goes missing, Lucy decides it’s time to act. Little does she know she’s about to become embroiled in a war of magic – good against evil – and she has a hard time figuring out which side is which.

Why is the Red Lady from whom Lucy ‘acquired’ her magic card locked away in a remote tower with a little boy and two of the missing children? And what has the odious Havoc, once an enchanted raven, have to do with it all?

This is number one in a new series which children from around ten years up will enjoy both for its mystery and its humour. Illustrated throughout by Becka Moor the reader will get a very clear idea of just how strange Grave Hall and its occupants are as well as satisfaction with justice well served.

Recommended for middle primary to early secondary readers.

Lexi & Lottie #1: Trusty Twin Detectives – Melanie Alexander

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9780143784135

Penguin Random House

9780143784135

May 29, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $12.99

 

If you’re looking for something new for your early independent readers this might be just the thing. Ignorant as I am of TV shows in the main, apparently this is based on a kids’ show of the same name.  The author writes for television and also has teaching experience so clearly knows her audience.

Kid detectives and animals (vets/zoos) are very popular trends at present and this follows that appeal with a colourfully illustrated and easy to read narrative.

The twins live at an animal park which caters for creatures who are unable to survive in the wild. The arrival of two white tiger cubs is a great cause for celebration and publicity but when one of the cubs is stolen, it’s a case for the twins to crack. Enlisting the help of their Grandpa George, best friend Fred and clever pet mouse Mozart, the girls are sleuthing all over town to locate poor missing Pounce.

There are some rather cute inserts into the text of the girls’ notes on the case as well as interspersed animal facts.

All in all a useful addition to your Easy Reading collection.

 

Vet Cadets : Bks 3 & 4 – Rebecca Johnson

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97128au

Penguin Random House

31 July 2017

Imprint : Puffin (AU YR)

RRP $14.99

This new series from Rebecca Johnson is perfect for those who have graduated from Juliet Nearly a Vet with girls who are just a little older and perhaps with a slightly more exciting setting. The three main characters – Abbey, Talika and Hannah are the newest recruits at boarding school Willowvale in its Vet Cadet program. So each book combines all those great things that girls especially love to read about – boarding school, friendships, animals and adventures. They are easy to read and quickly finished for the most part and each also has fun facts about the featured animal/s and other useful information. My only slight criticism of these two is that in one book MrMcPhail’s rescue dog is referred to as a cattle dog and in the other as a border (actually on one page a ‘boarder’) collie. I’m not trying to be pedantic but it is exactly the sort of detail I know my girls would pick up on!

Saving Itsy Bitsy

ISBN 9780143782735

9780143782735

When the school’s sow Henrietta has her litter of adorable piglets there is one tiny runt which looks like it won’t make it. However, the three girls are determined to save Bitsy and with dedication and help from sympathetic staff the tiny piglet begins to thrive and is able to go back with the rest of her family.

Those of us with a soft spot for piglets will especially warm to this feel-good story.

Alongside the struggle to save Bitsy there is the mystery of a spate of cattle thefts to be resolved. The girls with their quick minds and powers of observation are able to assist in a happy outcome with this as well.

 

Clever Chicks

ISBN 9780143782742

9780143782742

In Book 4, the girls’ science teacher Mrs Parry sets the task of raising and training day old chicks to prove that they are not ‘bird brains’. There is a lot of advocacy about caged hens and unethical egg production along the way which can only be a good thing. No doubt after reading this there will be many breakfast tables around Australia where hard questions are asked!

I have to add that this assignment seems to be the most arduous school work to appear in the books – I’m sure lots of girls would want to join the ranks at Willowvale if that’s the case!

In addition to their chicken lobbying, the girls face a trauma when a game of horseback hide-and-seek takes a sinister turn when a horse on the neighbouring property is diagnosed with Hendra virus. Will the girls’ horses be alright? It’s a worrying time for them all.

 

All in all these are lots of fun with, as to be expected, a real scientific flavour throughout. Rebecca has a winning way of integrating her passion for science  with her narratives and you can be sure that there will many readers who begin to dream of such a career path after experiencing it vicariously.

Highly recommended for your readers from about 8 – 13.

PS Certainly Miss K loves the idea of being ‘nearly a vet’!

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The Shop at Hoopers Bend – Emily Rodda

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Harper Collins

      ISBN: 9781460753668

      ISBN 10: 1460753666

      Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

     On Sale: 24/07/201

     List Price: 16.99 AUD

When you go to bed feeling a little tired and start reading a new book and then just keep reading it until you’re finished, you know it’s a terrific piece of writing.

It’s been a while since I’ve read any Emily Rodda books but this is a pearler!

Jonquil Medway (known as Quil) is an orphan who lives with her very top executive high-flying childless aunt – who is kind but not exactly a kindred spirit. Quil is generally either at boarding school or at holiday camps since her aunt is always globe-trotting and she’s pretty fed up with it all.

On this occasion as her aunt has flown off to Germany, Quil has been left overnight with Aunty Pam’s PA (even less a kindred spirit) and is being delivered to the railway station to go to yet another month long camp. To kill time before the train Quil is trailing behind PA Maggie at a very dingy flea market when she comes upon something astonishing. A beautiful cup with her name and her flower hand painted on it. Quil tingles with the magic of finally finding something with her own unusual name and wonders who made it and where the Hoopers Bend Gallery might be when she discovers that title on the underside.

To her great surprise as the train chugs up to the Mountains, Quil is suddenly staring at a platform sign bearing the legend Hoopers Bend. Impulsively she disembarks and thus begins a marvellous and almost mystical time of self-discovery.

An old and dilapidated village shop, an amusing little black and white dog and a rather bitter woman named Bailey are the catalysts for Quil finding her own true self and her life history. As if the stars align everything begins to change for this lonely little girl.

Emily Rodda has skilfully woven tiny threads one after the other to complete this masterful tapestry of ordinary people uncovering extraordinary events. Her characterisations are superb and her setting so powerful the readers can imagine them inside the story along with Quil.

This is going to be a huge winner with readers I predict and quite easily the kind of book that will sit well with teachers for use in Readers Circles and the like.  Themes of trust, honesty, inclusivity, friendship and simple pleasures will lend themselves well to discussions. Beautifully written and accessible to readers from around nine years upwards this is likely to be a title of note in the next twelve months.

Find teaching notes here.

Highly recommended for your collection – order it now!

 

Wreck – Fleur Ferris PLUS Q&A with Fleur

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wreck

Penguin Random House

9780143784319

July 3, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP: $19.99

 

Bad things happen.

Fight to make them right.

Or let it wreck your life.

 

Once again Fleur Ferris has delivered a gripping and tension filled narrative which will have readers impatient to turn each page.

Tamara Bennett is about to start uni. Her part time journalist’s job for the local paper in her little town has developed into a full-on career path and she can’t wait to hit ‘O’ week with her best friend.

As her last contribution to the local news, she has followed her habit of scrounging through the flotsam at the beach and discovered an odd note sealed in a bottle. It appears to be a sign of life from someone meant to have disappeared, presumed dead, five years earlier. The ensuing snippet of news published in the paper has the worst possible consequences for Tamara as she becomes entangled in a web of danger and deceit perpetrated by one of the most powerful men in the country.

Told in turn from Tamara’s perspective and that of the man most cruelly affected by the earlier disaster, this is a suspenseful tale well written as we have come to expect from this author.

I particularly love the use of the names Knox and Christian – dark and light – for the contrasting cousins…and the surname Chisel for the wealthy and powerful family. It implies the blunt attack of a tool meant to break up solid objects and that is extremely apt for this family who once boasted they ruled both on land and at sea but are now totally shattered into fragments.

Caught up in the concealment of a crime more insidious than she can believe, Tamara is in turn trapped between believing the account of Will and being persuaded by the intimidating presence of Knox his older brother.

The climax of the story is purposefully intense and charged with real fear. The villains are particularly frightening and the reader is left breathlessly awaiting the salvation of Tamara and Will.

This is an absolutely fabulous read for readers of either gender from around Lower Secondary upwards. It will keep them on the edge of their seats and give them much to think about regarding the public persona of well-known people vs their private lives.  Certainly it lends well to a debate on right and wrong, envy, loyalty and truth.

Highly recommended for Secondary readers!

 

Welcome to Just So Stories Fleur and what an absolute thrill to have you as Q&A and to talk about your new book ‘Wreck’.

  1. Your books are all very edgy and suspenseful – and sometimes even a wee bit scary – what prompts your plots?

When I hear of something I think, “What if?” and it usually starts from there. I draw from everything around me, current and historical events (local, national and international), and I enjoy discussing these ideas with friends and family.

  1. Perhaps you could tell us about your background before writing (for those who don’t know) and what triggered your desire to write?

I grew up on a wheat farm in North West Victoria. After year 12 I moved to Melbourne. Most of my adult life has been spent working in police and ambulance services in Victoria and South Australia.

I have always been a writer, even as a child. I have journals right back to when I was eight years old. In 2003 I wrote a short story and it was published in Woman’s Day. This sparked me to write more. Over the years, while I was a police officer and paramedic, I wrote novels that I never let anyone read. I knew in my early twenties that one day I wanted to be a published novelist but it wasn’t until I had children and left the Ambulance Service that I focused on writing for publication.

  1. Specifically, can you outline the genesis and development of ‘Wreck’?

I drew inspiration from a number of sources when coming up with the plot for Wreck. Whenever I heard of the discovery of a floating note at sea I wondered how long it had been floating for, how far it had travelled, who sent it, were they still alive, what did the note say. Often the discovery of these notes made world news and sometimes the sender, or members of their family, were tracked down. These stories got me thinking… What if the floating note wasn’t a wonderful discovery? What if it revealed something sinister? What if the person who found it was unknowingly thrust into danger simply because they had possession of it, simply because they had seen it? What if the note indicated or revealed something someone wanted concealed? For the discoverer, it would be as unfair as it was random and they would be completely blindsided by what was coming.

Instantly, my protagonist, Tamara, came to life in my mind. I knew where she lived, that she was the girl-next-door type of girl, excited by her goals and aspirations and about to move out of home and commence university. But instead of chasing her dreams she is running for her life. 

I started out writing the book as the reader would read it, swapping from Tamara’s voice to William’s voice, however, their voices started to sound the same. I stopped doing that and then wrote two separate thriller stories, one from Tamara’s point of view, and the other from William’s. I then had the task of cutting those stories and pasting them together so the reader received the right information at the right time so the story made sense and maintained tension and pace. 

  1. Tamara Bennett (Wreck) wants to report on ‘good news’ rather than focus on the negatives. In our current media climate it always seems to be very much the other way around. What are your personal thoughts on this?

With the regularity of atrocities and natural disasters that have occurred over the past few years it is easy to see why at times the news seems all negative, but I’m not sure if that is the case or if it’s because the “bad” news impacts people more, it’s the news that stays with us, the news that we think and worry about. I feel the news has become more graphic, but again, I don’t know if that is the case or if it’s because I now have children and it’s my job as a mother to sensor what they see. Maybe I didn’t notice it as much before I had children. 

  1. Your female characters are strong, smart and resilient. Is this a very intentional aspect of your writing?

Yes and no. 

I write strong, smart and resilient female characters because I write contemporary fiction and I see young women of today as having these traits. When I write a novel my main focus is on telling that story in the very best way I can, making it compelling and thrilling. When I create characters my intention is to reflect people of today. I’ve witnessed time and time again (in real life) people showing courage, strength and resilience in the face of crisis, just like my characters do in my books.   

  1. Can you tell us about your process for writing and what your writing space looks like?

An idea for a story will brew in my mind for a long time, maybe years, before I start writing. I think of and see scenes like watching a movie. I never write any of these down, as I don’t need to. I don’t forget them. When I have thought up and seen enough scenes in my head the time comes where I feel ready to write it down. These scenes that I see cover the main plot line, so I know this part of the book but everything else happens on the keys as I’m writing. 

Once I start writing I try and write the whole novel without losing momentum. It takes me anywhere between six to sixteen weeks to write a first draft.

I don’t have an office so I write at the kitchen table. My time for writing has changed over time. When the kids were little I wrote in the early hours of the morning (4am – 7am) because that was the only quiet time I had. Now I have the luxury of writing during daylight hours while the kids are at school.

  1. We always love to find out what authors like to read. What are your preferred genres/authors? What did you enjoy reading as a child?

The magic faraway tree by Enid Blyton was my favourite book as a child.

Throughout my younger adult years I was big into crime fiction and loved Patricia Cornwell’s books. I also loved Dean Koontz.

I loved the Hunger Games and Divergent Series.

Some authors I’ve read recently and loved are Rebecca James, Ellie Marney, Nicole Hayes, Rachael Craw (NZ writer), Gabrielle Tozer, Trinity Doyle, Will Kostakis, Shivaun Plozza and Nova Weetman. There are too many good #LoveOzYA authors to list! 

My preferred genre is mystery/thriller.

  1. I read that you moved twenty times in twenty years – which I think even outdoes me! Was it wanderlust, necessity or just the way things rolled?

It was just how things rolled. I was renting/share housing for a lot of it and moved to wherever I was working. When I first joined the SA Ambulance Service I did relieving work so moved around a lot because of that. I love experiencing new places. 

  1. What’s coming up next in your life – professional or otherwise?

I’m writing my next YA thriller which will be released mid 2018. I also have a middle grade novel coming out early 2019. I hope to keep more books coming!

  1. What do you hope your epitaph will read?

Fleur Ferris lived a long, full and happy life surrounded by friends and family, she travelled to snowy places all over the world and skied and wrote books until the very end.

 

Thank you so much for sharing some insight into your life and work. Your books have been some of the most well received and hotly discussed in my libraries :-).

Click here to visit Fleur’s website.

download

 

 

Bring Me the Head of Ivy Pocket – Caleb Krisp

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Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781408858721

Publisher: Bloomsbury UK

Imprint: Bloomsbury Child

May 2017

RRP $14.99

After two totally madcap and thrilling Ivy Pocket adventures, Caleb Krisp completes the trilogy with an equally exciting conclusion.

For those who have followed Ivy’s incredible and unbelievable exploits so far you may find this final instalment quite a lot darker than the first two. The many disparate threads of Ivy’s story begin to warp and weave into a flamboyant and sometimes frightening climax.

Watch the red herrings of Dumbleby, lunatic asylums, missing mothers, Locks, Miss Frost, Rebecca and Prospa all suddenly become fish in one net and combine to form the answer to Ivy’s lifelong question and her world of mental fantasies.

With a suitably vile villain – who is in fact Ivy’s grandmother (spoiler alert) – Ivy once more triumphs; this time for the final time.  Though one of the most irritating heroes of any tale, Ivy does have her endearing moments and her loyalty to those who show her kindness and love is undeniable.

With an ending that will satisfy any reader who wants justice done in their novels this can’t be missed.

In case you’ve missed out on these wild stories check them out here at Caleb Krisp’s website. The Q&A with the irrepressible Ivy is well worth the visit!

Highly recommended for Upper Primary readers of both genders.

 

 

The Fall – Tristan Bancks

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9780143783053

May 29, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $16.99

 

Well, after much impatient anticipation I could just say ‘WOW’! But that’s hardly the review this new action-packed novel deserves so I shall continue.

Tristan has a superlative ability to write everyday all-too-human imperfect characters and transform them into inspirational heroes.

Sam has never known his father. He knows he has one, he knows his name and his occupation and sometimes a vague idea of where he is. He lives with his mum in the beautiful Blue Mountains and as an almost teenager who has faced some physical difficulties, he’s becoming a little hard to handle at times.  Following some serious surgery to correct a scoliosis issue, Sam is finally going to stay with his dad in Sydney for some recuperation for himself and some respite for his mum.

In his mind, he has created his crime reporter father into a kind of super-hero, even writing his own comics about Harry Garner: Crime Reporter where his James Bond-like father is a legend.

The reality falls far short when Sam finds himself sleeping on an uncomfortable couch in a dingy apartment and a father who insists on being called Harry not Dad. Harry is not the tall handsome action hero of Sam’s dreams but an old tired-looking man with the same twisted body that Sam himself would have been destined for without the painful surgery. Instead of bonding time with his father, Sam is left alone day and night with Magic, a rather drooly but affectionate dog and leftover take-away pizza for rations.

From the outset the reader is plunged into Sam’s nightmare experience in the big city. Alone as usual and fitfully awake during the night, Sam overhears an altercation on the balcony above his father’s apartment. Cautiously watching through the window, Sam is shocked to see a man fall down to the ground where it crumples into an unquestionably very dead body. He knows instantly that the man has been pushed – and that falling six floors is a very effective way to silence an enemy.

Racing to tell Harry he realises that his dad is gone – again – and in a quandary goes downstairs to check on the man and realises all too late that he has been seen.  He knows enough about major crime to conclude that this is not a healthy situation for him to be in.

With unremitting drama, pace and suspense the next twenty four hours becomes a cat-and-mouse game of desperation as Sam tries to piece together the crime, aided in part by a new friend Scarlet from the floor above.

Perhaps the worst part for Sam is wondering if and how his father could be involved with this dreadful circumstance.

The climax of this adventure story will have readers on the edge of their seats, with palms sweating as Sam and his father literally dodge bullets and escape their own deaths.

With themes of trust, family/male relationships, resilience and courage this is another fine coming-of-age novel from a master storyteller.

Watch Tristan’s book trailer and find out some more of the back story here.

My highest recommendation for this especially for readers from around ten years upwards.  Your readers who seek the adventure/mystery genre will be completely gripped by this.

 

 

 

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill – Megan Shepherd/Levi Penfold

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By Megan Shepherd
Illustrated by Levi Pinfold

 

ISBN: 9781406367584
Imprint: Walker
Distributor: Walker Australia-HEDS
October 1, 2016
Australian RRP: $19.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

Just to continue on my ‘historical’ trail for the day, this is a simply beautiful novel which I read a few months ago and let slip down to the bottom of the pile (thank goodness for holiday cleaning frenzies!).

Set in Second World War England, Emmaline has been evacuated away from the bombs. But this is not just about escaping bombardment to safety, because Emmaline along with many other children of the time contracted tuberculosis. My knowledge of history is not deep for this period, despite having had a RAF father in Bomber Command and I certainly had never realised that due to the cramped and often unsanitary living conditions resulting from bomb devastation TB was rife, particularly amongst children.

Briar Hill Hospital in Shropshire has its fill of these poor kids many of whom were destined not to survive. Emmaline is not one of the worst – at first – and when she arrives she makes an amazing secret discovery. There are winged horses in the many mirrors at Briar Hill. Only she can see them and they call to her constantly.

She first discovers a beautiful horse called Firefox outside the mirrors and in the garden but it seems that she is not alone in this secret. The handyman Thomas appears to have some uncanny connection as well. Emmaline fights her disease but also begins a battle with the Black Horse, who wants to take the horses away. She writes to the Horse Lord – and he responds. But the Horse Lord cannot protect everyone and everything and soon Emmaline begins to see the purpose of the existence of the winged horses.

This is richly imaginative in both writing and illustrations, a wonderful and poignant tale of love and loss, the power of words and writing and fantasy.

Highly recommended for children from around 10 years upwards

The Turnkey – Allison Rushby

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ISBN: 9781925126921
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
March 1, 2017
Australian RRP: $16.99

More mystery and history and another great read following my last post. Clearly a talent for beautiful writing and an interest in history runs in this family!

In this gripping story the mystery and history are wrapped up in a spooky supernatural plot. Flossie Birdwhistle is twelve and the youngest turnkey in living (or not living) memory. A turnkey is the guardian and keeper of a cemetery and Flossie’s responsibility is huge given that she is in charge of one of London’s oldest and most well-known graveyards, Highgate.  As such she must ensure that those in her care must be kept safe and undisturbed in their eternal rest.  Difficult at any time, during World War II, with London being blitzed beyond comprehension Flossie’s task is even greater.

This charge becomes even more complex when Flossie comes upon the ghost of a German soldier who appears to be carrying a strange object. Her suspicions aroused, Flossie begins to investigate and before too long is embroiled in a very sinister plot which threatens not only her cemetery but her country at large.

Fascinating and intriguing, this is a novel that will be loved by readers from around 9 or 10 years old.

How marvellous to read two fabulous novels both with such unusual plots and such strong ‘Mighty Girl’ protagonists in just a few weeks!

Highly recommended for your library shelves – and yourself!

Rose Ravensthorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers – Janine Beacham

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Rose Ravensthorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers – Janine Beacham

MAR 28, 2017 | 9781510201286 | RRP $14.99

Hachette Au.

Imprint: Little Brown Books for Children

This has been one of my favourite reads of the past few weeks. Described as “The Clockwork Sparrow meets Downton Abbey”  it is really energetic and engaging novel.

Rose is meant to be a properly brought up young lady but somewhat rebels against this classification and when butlers all over London begin to be murdered including her own beloved Argyle, Rose determines to find out the truth.

Set in a quite Edwardian period Rose teams up with her not-so-bright friend and discovers a hidden world of secret guardians of York – butlers sworn to protect and serve.

Amidst complications of grave robbers, her father’s mission to destroy the opium trade from the Far East and an over-the-top magician, Rose becomes a trusted ally of the butlers’ secret society.  As the butlers wield their concealed rapiers, Rose unravels the dark reason behind the murders and triumphs exultantly.

Despite the darkness of the murders this is what I would describe as a ‘fun’ read. The prose simply rolls along and one must turn the page quickly to keep going until the denouement.

With mystery and history and a judicious splash of humour, this is a terrific addition to your library shelves for readers from around 9 or 10 upwards. I’m definitely looking forward to the next instalment!