It has all your favourite things! Adventure, maps… and a sad ending.

The-Girl-of-Ink-and-Stars-by-Kiran-Millwood-HargraveTitle: The Girl of Ink and Stars
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Interest Level: Year 7 +

They say the day the Governor arrived, so did the ravens. And the songbirds, in their despair, flew backwards into the sea. That’s why there are no songbirds on Joya.

Isabella loves stories and her father, an explorer and renowned cartographer, is a master storyteller. But since the Governor arrived on their island, there has been no need for map making – exploration is forbidden and no one is allowed to leave the island.

When her best friend Lupe, the Governor’s daughter, goes missing – Isabella is determined to help find her. Armed with only ink, parchment, her knowledge of the stars and the stories of her father, Isabella joins the search party to navigate the island’s forgotten territories. But the monsters in her father’s stories are more real than she could have imagined, Isabella must face her fears to find her friend. The vivid descriptions and stunning rendering of the book itself will draw you into this beautiful tale of courage and wonder. The debut novel of Kiran Millwood Hargrave showcases her flair for poetry and love of short stories, embedded within this fantasy tale.

Highly recommended: **** (ofr)

 

 

They say she’s cursed…

9781925324976Title: Black
Author: Fleur Ferris
Interest Level:  Year 8 +

Death follows Ebony Marshall. That’s what the whispers say anyway. Three of her best friends have died in tragic accidents. She’s not just bad luck; she’s cursed; she’s Black.

Once it bothered her, but now Black’s used to being on her own and she’s gotten very good at pushing people away. That is, until a new boy comes to school. He’s interesting and persistent, he won’t be pushed away. But after he’s rushed to hospital, the whispers get louder… Who or what is behind these deaths? Black doesn’t know who to trust and she can’t fight on her own anymore. Can she solve this mystery before death comes for her too? Or is she really cursed..?

A gripping read from start to finish, you’ll find that this thriller has teeth. Enter Black’s lonely world, set in the small Victorian town of Dainsfield, where a young girl’s hope of moving on becomes a fight for survival. In her second thrilling novel, Fleur Ferris grips her audience and causes you to question: who you really trust? If you’re a fan of thrillers or crime novels, then this fast-paced mystery will be perfect for you.

Highly Recommended: **** (ofr)

A sparkling sequel in an original and magical series

Cracks in the Kingdom CVR.pdTITLE = THE COLOURS OF MADELEINE Book 2: THE CRACKS IN THE KINGDOM

AUTHOR = JACLYN MORIARTY

GENRE = FANTASY, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, ROMANCE, GRIEF, FATHERS, FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

Jaclyn Moriarty has crafted a wonderful sequel in a clever and thoughtful series. Filled with a delicious blend of magic, science, adventure and romance…with credible characters who will draw readers into their stories. Again the book follows the stories of Elliott (in Cello) and Madeleine (in Cambridge, the World) but there is an added strand to the story in the sequel: the story of Princess Ko’s attempts to retrieve her royal family members who have been sent into the World by Hostiles (where they have forgotten their identities and ties to Cello). So there is an added political intrigue behind their new adventures, especially as Elliott is part of the team who have been nominated to help find the royal family … even though this means working with Madeleine to open up the crack between their worlds, despite the risk of death if he is discovered.

This book is about mirrors and cracks: in the world, in families and in individuals: he depths we will go to in order to find and/or protect our loved ones … the grief we will feel at their loss. It is also about politics and looking beneath the surface of people: spies pop up at every turn, allies and friends may have hidden depths of despair … no-one is quite as they seem.

Moriarty balances each strand of the story cleverly, with plenty of new twists and turns in the plot and in the characterisations.  As in the first novel (A Corner of White, read a review here), Jaclyn Moriarty’s writing simply sparkles: it is an absolute joy to read each line. Readers will be left asking for more, and impatiently awaiting the last volume in the series.

Read an interview with Jaclyn Moriarty about writing this series, here.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A gothic fairytale in small town America

far far awayTITLE = FAR, FAR AWAY

AUTHOR = TOM MCNEAL

GENRE = FAIRYTALES, GOTHIC HORROR, RELATIONSHIPS, COMMUNITY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

This is an unusual tale, filled with ghosts and the whisper of grim fairytales, where children go missing and evil lurks around the corner. There is a real sense of other-wordliness about this story partly because the narrator is none other than the ghost of Jacob Grimm (yes, of the Grimm brothers’ fame).

Unable to crossover after his death and meet his beloved brother Wilhelm, Jacob believes his destiny is to look after Jeremy Johnson Johnson and ensure that he doesn’t fall into the clutches of the “Finder of Occasions”. So he whispers in Jeremy’s ear and tells him spooky fairytales.

Jeremy is a quiet boy, with few friends – partly because he hears voices (Jacob’s whispers) and partly because he loves reading fairytales (surprise, surprise). He is a kindly lad who cares for his father, bedridden with grief since his wife left them many years ago. But Jeremy is shunned by the townspeople after an unfortunate prank … is the beguiling Ginger simply leading him astray? Or can she help him find his way to fame and fortune … so that he can save his home from the debt collectors?

Jeremy & Ginger need to stay one step ahead of the “Finder of Occasions” … whoever he may be… for if they are caught they may join the ranks of other missing children. Can Jacob help save them or is he too busy watching the wrong person?

A spooky tale that mesmerises readers into believing in fairytales … and hoping for the best for our young hero, Jeremy and his friend, Ginger. This book has won numerous awards, including the California Book Award Gold Medal (2013), it has been shortlisted for the US National Book Award (2013) and been a finalist in the Edgar Allan Poe Mystery Awards (2013) as well as gaining many, many acclaimed reviews from school libraries. A great choice if you are interested in spooky fairytale-like stories.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A twisting turning plot brings plenty of surprises

celia frostTITLE = THE TRUTH ABOUT CELIA FROST

AUTHOR = PAULA RAWSTHORNE

GENRE = MYSTERY, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-10

There are many surprising twists and turns in this entertaining novel. At first it seems that Celia Frost’s main problem is a rare blood disorder which endangers her life: the smallest cut could be lethal, as she could bleed out. Is it any wonder that most classmates give Celia a wide berth, for fear of causing her harm. So when we first meet Celia she is a lonely girl, struggling against school bullying.

But Celia and the reader are soon in for a surprise and we follow Celia and her Mum as their close relationship is torn apart by changing events. What began as a book about a young teen with special needs, suddenly becomes a mystery novel,  complete with a mad (or bad?) scientist, a possible kidnapping, a dodgy private eye and a special friend – who just may save the day.

Celia is a credible teenage girl, struggling to make sense of her world – a world which keeps changing shape. The other characters are equally realistic: not all may appear likeable at first but they are certainly engaging. Set in England, in particular in a poor housing estate -this is an entertaining novel by a new author.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An exciting new crime series

travis delaney 1TITLE = TRAVIS DELANEY INVESTIGATES: #1 – THE ULTIMATE TRUTH

AUTHOR = KEVIN BROOKS

GENRE = DETECIVE, MYSTERY, CRIME, FAMILY, GRIEF

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Travis Delaney is heart-broken at the sudden death of his parents in a car accident. But was it an accident? The Delaney’s ran a private investigator’s agency and there are several questions hanging over their last case. Partly to take his mind off his own personal grief, Travis decides to do some investigating himself … but is he in over his head??

This is a fast-paced action adventure novel, the first instalment in what looks like being an exciting series. Travis is a credible and likeable kid: his grief is raw and he has a good heart. But his opponents are realistically portrayed too, so the danger he faces is all too real.

Sure to be a hit with both girls and boys. Check out the book trailer below:

Music (“Polonium 210”  by Alan Gould & Roger Roger) sourced from the Animoto site, as were the images for this book trailer.

Highly Recommended (dma) ***** 

A mystery solved with some supernatural help

dying to tell meTITLE = DYING TO TELL ME

AUTHOR = SHERRYL CLARK

GENRE = MYSTERY, SUPERNATURAL, CRIME, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

Since her mum left, Sasha has been filled with anger, and this has led her into trouble, from shoplifting to joy riding. Humiliating for her, and even more so for her dad, a policeman. In an attempt at a fresh start, Dad has moved with Sasha and her younger brother (Nicky) to the small town of Manna Creek, where he is to be the local cop.

Sasha isn’t entirely happy about the move and even less happy when she starts to have premonitions again; is she seeing ghosts? Is she going mad? To make matters worse, Sasha can even communicate telepathically with their newfound dog, King! Can Sasha use these skills to help her dad solve local crimes or is she just imagining it all?

This is a clever mystery story, with credible characters and heart-warming family relationships. Sasha is a likeable character, with a realistic mix of spunk and vulnerability. A thoroughly entertaining read.

Recommended (dma) **** 

An intriguing insight into one boy’s mind

colin fischerTITLE = COLIN FISCHER

AUTHOR = ASHLEY EDWARD MILLER & ZACK STENTZ

GENRE = ASPERGER’S SYNDROME, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, SCHOOL

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 7 +

As the cover suggests, Colin Fischer has an unusual way of looking at the world – and this sometimes gets him into fixes. Colin has trouble reading facial cues and trouble with tone – he is a logical thinker and takes things literally. Colin has previously had an aide to help him navigate the pathways of school, but now he is adventuring out alone.. except for his trusty notebook in which he records events and keeps notes to help him cope with new experiences.

Colin has been the butt of bully boy Wayne Connelly for as long as he can remember. So when Wayne is accused of bringing a gun to school, no one is more surprised than Wayne, when Colin decides to help solve the mystery and clear Wayne’s name. But this is not out of a sense of friendship or empathy, it is simply Colin’s logical, rational mind at work – and after all, his hero is the renowned detective, Sherlock Holmes … so it makes sense that he should try and follow in his shoes. Even if this leads him to a number of firsts: lying to his parents for starters!

There is much to enjoy in this book. Whether or not the depiction of Asperger’s syndrome is accurately portrayed the novel certainly allows the reader to witness life from a different perspective. Colin is a likable young man with a credible family: his parents are thoughtful and loving but his younger brother is somewhat jealous and rarely has a kind word for his brother!  The ending may come a little too neatly for some but younger readers are sure to be satisfied with the way plot strands are resolved.

Recommended (dma) ***

An unusual narrative approach for a cleverly twisted mystery

cry blue murderTITLE = CRY BLUE MURDER

AUTHOR = KIM KANE & MARION ROBERTS

GENRE = CRIME, MYSTERY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 – 10

This is an unusual mystery story with a powerful sting awaiting readers in the final pages. Part of the uniqueness of the story lies in the way it is told for it does not use the normal narrative path. It opens with a list of witnesses followed by a Facebook page, which has been set up following the disappearance of a Melbourne schoolgirl. Two contributors to the Facebook page become online friends And much of the story is revealed via their emails and texts to each other. Celia is a schoolgirl in Melbourne, upset by the local mystery and as a new girl at her school, feeling a tad friendless and lonely. She is pleased to have an eager audience in Alice, who used to live in Melbourne but is now at a boarding school in Mildura. Both are having a difficult time with their families so much of the story unfolds slowly as the 2 girls discuss their lives. The central mystery slips to the background until a second girl disappears. 

Interspersed between the emails are newspaper articles and interview transcripts with witnesses and/or possible suspects, so the reader is in a good position to play detective. Whether they will see the shock coming at the end of the story remains to be seen!

An entertaining story told in an unusual way.

Recommended (dma) ***

A gripping read

KILLING-WOODS-Final2-196x300TITLE = THE KILLING WOODS

AUTHOR = LUCY CHRISTOPHER

GENRE = CRIME, MYSTERY, ADVENTURE, HORROR  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

This is a clever but quite chilling tale told by 2 key characters: Emily and Damon. Emily is the daughter of a battle-shattered man who has been arrested for the murder of a teenager in the woods behind their house. The doctors and police have decided that her dad’s wounded mind has led him to mistakenly kill the girl whilst in the throes of a flashback. Emily refuses to believe that her dad is guilty of the murder so she wants answers: why was the teenage girl (Ashlee Parker) in the woods on that night anyway? Was her dad simply trying to save the girl as he had saved many woodland creatures in the past?

Damon was Ashlee’s boyfriend. He too wants answers – whilst he firmly believes that Emily’s father is the guilty party, he was actually in the woods with Ashlee on that fateful night  … but a combination of drink and drugs means he cannot clearly remember what happened. He is haunted by the suspicion that he could or should have saved her. Worse still, could he have anything to do with her death?

Can Emily and Damon trust each other enough to find answers for both of them? And what about their own close friends – are they helping or hindering the police investigation … can they be trusted?

A gripping story which is a real page-turner from go to whoa. Like Emily and Damon, the reader will be keen to piece together the events which have led to Ashlee’s death, but will we see the truth before they do?

Why not check out the author’s website to learn more about this gripping novel and her other award winning books?

Highly Recommended (dma) *****