Tag Archives: Thriller

It’s Not You, It’s Me – Gabrielle Williams

Standard

Allen & Unwin

August 2021

ISBN: 9781760526078P

Imprint: A & U Children

RRP: $19.99

Yes, that tag line – Freaky Friday meets Pretty Little Liars – really hits the mark. This is one helluva time-travel that not just the life-swap but the cities/continents/decades swap as well! And what a ride it is, especially when there’s a serial killer thrown into the mix.

Holly Fitzgerald, of Melbourne, has just finished celebrating her 40th birthday lunch with friends when she wakes up on a footpath – make that, sidewalk – in LA in the body of a 16-year-old girl named Trinity. Literally, what the……? Holly stumbles her way through meeting a neighbour (cute boy – Australian, coincidentally), going to her ‘home’ and then adjusting to a ‘family’ whilst feverishly trying to piece together what on earth has happened to her, and how – and most of all, where then is Trinity?

The one resonant fact shared between her actual life and this strange 1980s faux life in LA is an orange Brother typewriter – second-hand and vintage in Melbourne but shiny and new here in Los Angeles. Of course, the odd synchronicity of a Holly Hobbie doll, identical to one she was given as a newborn, being on Trinity’s bed does strike her as a little strange as well.

When Brother Orange, the typewriter, starts delivering furious messages from Trinity, trapped in what she scornfully refers to as Holly’s boring, middle-aged existence and demanding the situation be fixed, Holly needs to work through a lot of unanswered questions about her past, her life and the connections between herself and Trinity’s family. – and at the same time, save both their lives from the Mariposa Murderer.

This is, by turns, hilarious and clever, fascinating and frightening, but above all a real page-turner as the reader demands to know what on earth is going on and why. There is a smattering of swearing which may bother you for your younger secondary readers but mature readers from 13 or 14 upwards who enjoy a thrilling narrative will relish this one as it explores the eternal questions of ‘what if’ in a very original and engaging manner. Oh, and absolutely stunning cover art!

Highly recommended for Year 8 upwards – it will be on my list for my next ChocLit meeting for sure!

The Shadow Arts – Damien Love

Standard

Bloomsbury

July 2021

Imprint: Rock the Boat

ISBN: 9780861540860

RRP: $14.99

A few months ago, Alex’s world changed forever. Now, just when it seems life is almost getting back to normal, his grandfather crashes back into the picture with grave news…Innocent lives –  even history itself – could be at stake.

Monstrous Devices was one of the most gripping and splendid debut novels I have ever read and I have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment. Let me say right now, it did not disappoint, and I have no qualms that any readers who have so far become engrossed in Alex’ adventures and the mystery of his grandfather, the tall man and the little girl and the battered tin robot will feel the same.

Like the first book this is a thrilling fantasy/adventure that is edgy and dark with some very unsettling evil villains and seriously creepy machines. I included the first in my pre-holiday book talking ‘best holiday reading picks’ to the Year 6 cohort and made sure I underlined that this is not a series for the faint-hearted or squeamish! Needless to say there was a clamour to be the one to borrow it – especially when I told them I had started this sequel and it was just as exciting. It is going to be such a pleasure to give this one a book talk when the new term starts.

Alex has been struggling to get back to ‘normal’ since the whirlwind adventure that blended ancient magical powers with chancy mechanized killing machines. His brief taste of the power that the mysterious tablet commands has taken hold of his thoughts and he has tried to learn to manipulate it. In a moment of danger, Alex’ grandfather re-appears, dapper and suave as ever, and once again the pair are off on a breakneck trip across Europe, this time to rescue their friend, Harry, unravel the mystery of the disappearing paintings and uncover the tall man’s plot to resurrect an ancient evil force. Their travels lead them to the depths of the Black Forest on the very eve of Walpurgis, and along the way Alex begins to piece together his family history, the true identity of the tall man, the connection of the little girl and most of all some of the strange and unfathomable secrets about his grandfather.

When his grandfather becomes unable to carry on, it is up to Alex to put together all the missing pieces, and harness all his powers to ensure the tall man’s plans, which could signal the end of the world as we know it, come to naught. In the process, he learns much about himself and his own resilience, not to mention empathy and intuition.

Beyond the reckless chases, the nimble escapes and the humorous interludes there is a deep theme throughout of the light and dark of human nature, the power of creation for good and evil and the wants and desires of those who seek power, of whatever kind.

Once again this is a triumph of well-crafted writing which will thoroughly captivate your readers from upper primary onwards. It will certainly be a book that your kiddos will want to debate and discuss post-reading so make sure you set time aside for that.

Highly recommended for readers from around 11/12 years upwards – but possibly not ones easily scared by flying sharp mechanical objects that are programmed to attack no matter what. I suggest you issue all loans with a sachet of table salt – just for good measure!

The Cousins – Karen M. McManus

Standard

Penguin Australia

  • December 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241376942
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • RRP: $17.99

Attention all of you who loved One of Us is Lying! This YA thriller will get you and your readers in from the first page. I literally ate it up over just a couple of nights. Three cousins all the same age who barely know each other, having not met since they were around five years old, are suddenly thrown together for the summer. Their respective parents plus another sibling have been disinherited and disowned by their grandmother years ago, before they were even born and yet, mysteriously they have all been invited to the old family home where the famous Gull Cove Resort, Catmint House and the Story family are held in the greatest esteem.

Envy of all, rich and privileged, the older Story children were very close despite their different personalities but following the death of their father, and their mother’s decline into a morbid grief as they all began their independent lives at college and in the adult world, there comes a great shock. A bald communication from their mother’s lawyer You know what you did signals their instant dismissal from their mother’s life. So why does the mysterious Mildred Story suddenly and unexpectedly invite her grandchildren to come and be part of the Gull Cove Resort team for the summer?

As the narrative unravels the secrets, the lies and deceptions unfold in such an extremely satisfying (for we sleuths!) way that the reader is completely engrossed in the story. The cousins’ curiosity and determination to uncover the truth reveals far more than anything expected. This is truly a thriller that will delight your astute readers.

It gets a huge recommendation from me with the rider that it does have some significant coarse language and some adult themes but for your mature readers a great big tick!!! Family first – always. Right?

People of Abandoned Character – Clare Whitfield

Standard

Harper Collins Australia

December 2020

  • ISBN: 9781838932749
  • ISBN 10: 1838932747
  • Imprint: Head of Zeus – GB
  • List Price: 32.99 AUD

Imagine the man you married was a murderer, in fact, one of the most infamous murderers in history. Susannah Chapman fears she is married to the monster who came to be known as Jack the Ripper.

Step into Victorian London where the wealthy and outwardly respectable live cheek-by-jowl with the dregs of society, each with their own sordid secrets: drugs, alcohol, violence, homosexuality, sexual perversions and cruelty. Sometimes the most dangerous are those who appear to be the most refined.

Born illegitimate to a mother not long out of childhood herself, Susannah becomes an orphan at five years old when her mother is brutally killed by one of her customers. Raised by grandparents the girl has always been a little different. Her kindly grandfather appreciates her more unusual nature but her strict grandmother despairs of her and is continually frustrated in her attempts to subdue what she sees as a wayward child. When her grandfather dies, Susannah assumes the role of carer for her ailing grandmother and dreams of a time when she will be free to make her own way in the world. Eventually that time arrives as Susannah nears thirty and she takes up training as a nurse at the London Hospital. Finally she feels she has achieved some independence and self-worth and with her closest friend, Aisling, makes a pretty fair nurse at a time when that profession is just beginning the transformation into the one we know today. When Aisling is killed by a violent drunk Susannah is devastated and begins to doubt her direction in life. But then she catches the eye of handsome young surgeon, Thomas Lancaster.

After a whirlwind romance, the pair are married but within weeks of their passionate honeymoon, cracks begin to appear feeding Susannah’s doubts about her own worth. Thomas is cruel and violent, capricious and erratic and as the weeks turn into months, his behaviour becomes more and more unpredictable. The newspapers are filled with lurid reports of the shocking murders of Whitechapel prostitutes and Susannah’s preoccupation with the details of these bring her to a strong suspicion that her husband could well be the violent perpetrator being sought by the police.

As the narrative proceeds the reader turns to first one and then another character, each of them with dark secrets, with growing unease while poor Susannah becomes more and more isolated and frightened for her own safety. Clare Whitfield has created in this, her debut novel, a marvellously wrought historical novel which swiftly becomes not just a murder mystery but a thriller with plot twists that are both unexpected and astonishing. It’s a page-turner of extraordinary depths – dare I say – a ripping yarn though not for the faint-hearted. There is liberal strong language and graphic bloody violence but a great read with a denouement that will make you gasp.

I would highly recommend it for anyone who loves a terrific suspenseful novel.

Nightshade – Anthony Horowitz

Standard

 

1583105566022

Walker Books Australia

April 2020

ISBN: 9781406395877
Imprint: Walker

Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

Coming hard on the heels of the 20th anniversary of Alex Rider’s first adventure – Stormbreaker – is even more high-octane heart-pumping tension as Alex plunges deep into a mysterious organisation known as Nightshade.

Once again Alex is an unwilling recruit into MI6’s latest investigation and this time he is in danger right from the get-go as he is sent into the maximum security prison on Gilbratar, impersonating  ruthless killer and terrorist, Julius Grief – his clone from Point Blanc. It’s not just the danger of the mission that puts Alex in peril but the fact that young Grief had made plenty of enemies within the prison walls who would be only too happy to see him on his way to a permanent end.

An MI6 agent has been murdered and two child-assassins, unbelievably, were responsible. Only one of them was captured and it is apparent that he is a boy believed dead in an accident but it seems kidnapped and raised as a human weapon.  It’s Alex’ mission to befriend him and if possible discover more about Nightshade, the organisation behind not just one but many missing children.

Will Alex be able to connect to Freddy – No 9 – and successfully infiltrate Nightshade to discover their plans? Moreover, will he then be able to prevent the loss of life of thousands of people? As usual this 13th thriller-adventure proves Anthony’s power to create an explosive and suspenseful narrative that will thoroughly engage and entertain fans of the original teen spy.

I’ve just bought the entire series in the fabulous newest editions to replace our rather sad-looking ones in our collection and now planning a big bold Alex Rider display for when the kiddos come back to school.

I’m unashamedly both an Alex fan and a Horowitz one and highly recommend this – and the entire series – for your readers from around Year 6 upwards.

 

The Tell – Martin Chatterton

Standard

9781760895945

Penguin Australia

April 2020

ISBN: 9781760895945

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

OMG whoahhhh! If you struggle at times to get some of those middle school reluctant readers engaged with a great book (who doesn’t?) this is definitely a ‘must have’!

Pure adrenalin pumping action from start to finish, this a narrative that is tense, at times grim but with fabulous concepts of the meaning of loyalty, family expectations, ethics and courage throughout.

Raze Tanic is in many ways an average teen boy whose passion in life is creating street art (yes, graffiti but classy) with his two best friends, Ids and Candy. Together they form MCT and plan to be the best street artists in Sydney. However, Raze is far from average given that he is the son of Dejan Tanic, head of the biggest crime syndicate going and currently serving time – long time – in The Coffin, a high security jail out of Sydney. Older brother, Solo, is already firmly entrenched in the family business but Raze is determined to stay clear of it, a dilemma that has bothered him for quite some time as he anticipates his father’s fierce response. So he is well and truly astonished when during his much-hated jail visit and bravely telling his father of his decision, Dejan is not only understanding but seemingly supportive. Little does Raze know that it’s because Dejan is distracted, awaiting his ‘escape’ plan to come to fruition and when it does, all hell breaks loose.

Dejan’s bold and daring escape, executed with perfect precision, instigates the biggest manhunt ever but also triggers out-and-out warfare with rival crime boss, Jonjo Sullivan and it is Raze who is caught in the crossfire.

Ids and Candy have his back but their help is complicated by the fact that Candy’s father is Don Cooper, chief cop in charge of the operation to re-capture Tanic Senior and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Murder attempts, arson, crooked cops, betrayals, domestic violence, cat-and-mouse chases, narrow escapes and more, all over Sydney, unravel at lightning speed leaving the reader practically breathless.

The energy and intensity of the narrative is superb and the characterisation of the three teens so well done – Martin has captured their ‘voice’ perfectly. Their resilience, ingenuity and sheer daring will appeal to even the most disengaged reader in my opinion and there is no doubt that this would also make a fabulous ‘read aloud’ for those 7/8/9 kids who disdain novels.

I’ve already recommended this to my Choclit group and promoted it on our library home page but will certainly be giving it a lot of ‘book talk’ time (whether that’s real-time or virtual). It’s definitely one to add to our eBook collection as well and I’m pretty selective about those, only adding what I judge to be a ‘winner’.

Do your collection and your teens a huge favour and make sure this one is added to your shelves – you won’t regret it and nor will they!

Highly recommended for readers from around 13 years upwards.

Check this out!

The Lily in the Snow: Book #3 Miss Lily – Jackie French

Standard

Lily3

Harper Collins

March 2019

ISBN: 9781460753842

ISBN 10: 1460753844

RRP 29.99 AUD

We devotees of Miss Lily have been waiting fairly impatiently for her return and I was thrilled when my copy arrived and immediately started immersing myself once more into the world of Sophie, Nigel and Miss Lily. However packing and moving house followed up by three weeks of the dreaded lurgy meant I was only ¾ through – until last Saturday when I binge read the remaining chapters because I just couldn’t wait any longer to find out the conclusion.

The Jazz Age has begun and Sophie and Nigel generally manage to ignore it living peacefully at Shillings watching their delightful twins growing up. There are concerns such as Sophie’s belief of an impending financial crash and her need to ensure the safe continuation of her father’s corned beef empire.  But long held secrets and intrigues threaten their idyll and the most significant of these will change their lives forever.

Responding to a request from their old colleague the pair help to uncover the identity of a badly injured veteran of the Great War which brings Sophie once again into contact with the mysterious ‘John’ from her Australian home. Questions surround the paternity of the Shillngs twins and the encounter with ‘John’ must resolve these.

A mysterious and ferocious young girl, Violette, turns up at Shillings after considerable mis-adventure and is intent on killing her mother whom she believes is Miss Lily: a circumstance which throws all kinds complications into the household.

And Sophie’s old friend Hannelore instigates what is tantamount to blackmail to enlist Miss Lily’s support of the man for whom she has developed a blind and misguided fervour, a German called Herr Hitler.

The tension and mystery of the narrative are superlative and once again Jackie’s undisputed skill in weaving fact with fiction provides the reader with a plot that unfolds with high drama and exquisite anticipation. One cannot help but become completely invested with these characters that become all but real as the series continue.

As always one is living within the story and the involvement is powerful with the conclusion thrilling and filled with twists and turns as only Jackie can achieve.

I truly hope this is not the last we see of this engaging saga and now we must wait with patience to see the next instalment.

An amazing and triumphant return of the story highly recommended for senior readers and adults.

 

a PS – from my lovely cousin (sister from another mother) who is currently reading it……..

Jackie is a wonderful story teller, she makes you feel as if you really KNOW the character, or invokes emotions about how you feel about them.

Found – Fleur Ferris

Standard

found

Random House Australia Children’s

9780143784326

July 2, 2018

RRP $19.99

With her customary skill Fleur’s new novel launches into full-speed adrenaline-rushing action from the outset.  Had it not been the end of term and my exhaustion levels peaking I would have binge-read it in one sitting!

Seventeen year old Beth Williams has lived all her life in the quiet rural town of Deni. She and her parents have a farm not far from the town and are an integral part of the community. While Beth often wishes her mum and dad were not so over-protective and even strict, she knows that they only want the best for her. She’s aware that a lot of her friends are pretty intimidated by her martial arts instructor father – ‘Bear’ by nickname and  pretty much bear by nature but all in all the biggest worry she has is telling her folks that she has a boyfriend. Jonah is a fellow karate student in her dad’s gym and they are a perfect match.

Just as she is about to broach this delicate topic with her father he literally disappears before her eyes – abducted by some unknown people in a plain white van – and then all hell breaks loose. Beth and her mum Lucy are thrown into frightening but controlled response mode and Beth begins the discovery of her parents’ true identity – as well as her own. Now she realises the real purpose behind the family living on a farm with Beth learning many skills not usual for a teen – driving any kind of vehicle, handling weapons, survival tactics and strategy.

It’s a nightmare from which she is unsure they will emerge unscathed and indeed, it seems they will not – that is, not all.  But if nothing else, she is her father’s daughter – in more ways than one – and she will not cower in the face of danger and threat.

The tension of the narrative is held superbly throughout with the characters well-drawn and arousing empathy despite some deadly past mistakes.

Highly recommended for readers from around 15 years upwards – some language may offend some institutions but is always completely in context in my opinion.

Wreck – Fleur Ferris PLUS Q&A with Fleur

Standard

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