Tag Archives: mystery

Ferret by C.C. Wyatt

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Ferret by C.C. Wyatt, e-book, 418 pages, published by Me Myself Publishing in 2016.

It has been four years since Pia’s life was transformed by a sixteen hour disappearance from her Florida holiday home. She has no recollection of any part of those hours, but believes that she must have been kidnapped. Pia is plagued by anxiety, crippling panic attacks and hallucinatory visions. Her parents believe it is all in her head, but Pia isn’t so sure. When Pia returns to Florida she attempts to unravel some of the mystery surrounding her disappearance. She also hopes to investigate an island that only she can see in the ocean between Miami and Bermuda. On her first day back in Florida, she meets a mysterious boy, Cameron, who is a fellow sufferer of hallucinations. Could he hold the answers that Pia has been searching for?

It took me a little while to get into Ferret, but once I was in, it was a fast and engaging read. The plot was quite intriguing, with allusions to the Bermuda Triangle and alien abduction. I’ve always been fascinated by the Bermuda Triangle; missing planes, boast and people, navigational disturbances, unexplained lights. There have been plenty of theories, but they are all yet to be proved, which makes a wonderful scene for a novel about paranormal and supernatural activity.

Overall I enjoyed Ferret. The premise was great, execution was good, and the characters were interesting and believable. However, throughout the book, I noticed grammatical errors, repeated or transposed words and some spelling mistakes. Really, they were a minor nuisance, but they should have been picked up and corrected during the proof-reading process. I can get a bit distracted by things like this, and it did dampen my enthusiasm a little.

Without spoiling the end, I can say that it took an unexpected turn that I didn’t especially like. It was still written well, but it felt less real than the rest of the story. There was also very little resolved as it ended with “To be continued…” Ferret is the start of a series, but for over 400 pages, I would have liked to have seen Pia make a bit more progress on her mystery. There is still so much to uncover for Pia, Cameron, and even his cousin, Brian. Answers, I need answers! Luckily there is another book coming.

Pia and Cameron are both incredibly complex characters. They have issues and secrets from their pasts, along with a history of mental illness. They were drawn together, and we have to believe that it was fate that they meet. While they were fascinated by each other, they had to learn to like and trust one another. And believe, in each other and in themselves. This all happened in the space of a week, which is rather fast-tracked, but it made for an eventful storyline.

I found Pia’s parents to be very confusing. At times Pia seemed to be afraid of them, especially her Dad. I can understand that they were frightened by her disappearance and have continued to be concerned about her ‘episodes’, but they also seemed to be using that as an excuse to keep her under their thumb. I didn’t like them. Their reaction to her going behind their backs is extreme. As a parent myself, first and foremost should have come relief, not anger that she broke their trust. Pia did something in order to prove that she wasn’t crazy, but they didn’t appear to care what her motive was, or to want to re-assure her that they believed her. Maybe they will lighten up a little in the next book.

Ferret is most suitable for high school students. I think many mystery and paranormal fans would be interested in this series. The next book, Perseaus, is expected to be published later this year (2017).

 

*I received this book from the author (via @BookTasters) as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

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wells1Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens, paperback novel, 322 pages, published by Corgi Books in 2014.

An English boarding school in the 1930s is the scene for a terrible crime. The science mistress, Miss Bell, suddenly disappears. Perhaps she left of her own volition, but third formers, Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells know better. Hazel saw her lying dead in the gym, but someone moved her body before she could fetch help. Luckily Daisy and Hazel are secret detectives, and now they are on the case. Can these girl detectives solve their biggest case or will they just land themselves in danger?

Amateur sleuthing in a boarding school makes for an interesting story. The mystery was engaging and well planned, with some great twists and complex suspects. It kept me guessing! I liked the writing style, and that Hazel shared her suspect list with us as she updated it.

Deepdean is an all girls boarding school, providing a comprehensive education for young ladies. Daisy and Hazel live in House with the other third form boarders, but they have a secret, they are running a detective society right out of their dorm. They are somewhat of an odd pair. Daisy is very outgoing, sporty, charming and well loved, the perfect English girl, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Hazel is from Hong Kong and is not really any of those things, though she is smart, persistent and pedantic. Daisy can be rather overbearing, and thinks very highly of herself, often discounting Hazel’s theories and ideas in favour of her own. Hazel is more levelled, and I preferred her careful deducting to Daisy’s headfirst charge after leads. They both displayed a number of virtues, complementing each other, making them perfect detective partners. I preferred Hazel as a character, though Daisy has her moments.

All of the characters were well described and easily pictured. The Headmistress was quite formidable! I pictured Miss Parker with hot pink, spiky hair, but I’m not sure that would have been an option in the 30s.

I was surprised by a Miss Marple reference during the story as most of the Miss Marple books were published after Murder Most Unladylike is set. Perhaps the beloved Miss Marple inspired the Wells and Wong Detective Society!

I greatly enjoyed this murder mystery. As soon as I had finished reading Murder Most Unladylike I went out and bought the next two books in the series, Arsenic for Tea and First Class Murder. I am looking forward to reading them and sharing them with my daughter.

Murder Most Unladylike is suitable for upper primary school and high school students. It will suit anyone who enjoys a nice clean murder mystery.

Goodwood by Holly Throsby

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goodwoodcoverGoodwood by Holly Throsby, paperback novel, 384 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2016.

In 1992 in a sleepy little town in NSW something very unusual happens. Young Rosie White disappears overnight, leaving her mother devastated and the townsfolk speculating. Just one week later another member of the community disappears; Bart McDonald, local butcher, upright citizen, all round good guy. He went fishing and never returned. Could their disappearances be connected, or is it merely co-incidental? And will the citizens of Goodwood ever know the truth?

In Goodwood there are a few shops, a couple of drinking establishments and just out of town, a lovely lake, perfect for fishing and boating. Seventeen year old Jean Brown introduces us to this small town, where everyone knows everyone. And where everyone’s business is kept by the whole town. Some people have learnt how to keep secrets, but eventually most secrets come to the surface. Jean lives with her mother nearby her grandparents, who have been in Goodwood forever.

A complex web of secrets and intrigues shrouds the members of Goodwood, which only start to unravel after the shocking disappearance of two very different people. Like an iceberg, much more lurks beneath the surface in Goodwood, hidden behind the public facade of each household. There is plenty of gossip, and just maybe some of it is true. Rosie works in the takeaway shop, having just left school the year before. Jean is a little bit in love with Rosie, who seems so cool and in control. In contrast, Bart is middle-aged and always has time for everyone, even the annoying old lady that visits his shop everyday mostly for a chat. They are very different people, superficially without a lot in common, just what is it that links their disappearances?

Goodwood sucked me in very early on. The plot was intricate, the characters interesting, and the pace moderate. It is a most enjoyable read about small town life and the impact that a sudden and unexpected event can illicit among the townspeople. It also has coming-of-age elements as Jean learns more about herself, her relationships and her place within the community.

I found this novel quite nostalgic, pulling me back into my childhood. Through description and characterisation, the world as it was in the early nineties came flooding back. The writing perfectly captured that time, and I was left with a feeling of familiarity and contentment. It was like having a spotlight shone upon a time that I had mostly forgotten as a young child, and that brought pleasing memories forth. This helped me feel connected to Jean, and thus connected to the story. Goodwood was a delight to read.

Goodwood is reminiscent of Peyton Place and The Dressmaker; if you liked these, try Goodwood, I’m sure you will not be disappointed! It is suitable for upper high school students and adults, particularly appealing to mystery fans and those that enjoy the complexities of small community life.

 

*I received this book from the publisher as an uncorrected proof through an online competition. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

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theleavingcoverThe Leaving by Tara Altebrando, paperback novel, 421 pages, published by Bloomsbury in 2016.

Eleven years ago six kindergartners disappeared without a trace. Now five of them are back with no memory of where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing since they left. They have arrived with a few clues, but is it enough to discover their past? And what happened to Max, the child that didn’t make it back?

The cover of this book is awesome. I knew the first time I saw it that I wanted to read it. I do have a tendency to pick up books based entirely on their covers, and this one is perfect. Luckily the story was also pretty awesome, though I thought that the ending seemed a little rushed.

The Leaving was a mystery with elements of science fiction. It was difficult to put down once I started, and I finished it quite rapidly. It was told from the perspectives of three characters, Scarlett and Lucas, two of the taken, and Avery, the little sister of Max. I liked this split in the narrative, as I got to see how things were developing from both sides of the equation; from those who have no recollection and must re-adjust to families and a life from before, and from one that was left behind and had to deal with the fall-out of The Leaving.

Tidbits of information and clues were doled out slowly, building suspense and intrigue. I did manage to work out some of the answers prior to them being supplied, but not everything. The explanation of why and who felt too brief after such a long time developing. However, The Leaving is still a very good book that I recommend to lovers of mystery and crime.

Interesting characters added to the satisfaction of reading The Leaving. Despite not remembering anything about themselves, I still got to know Lucas and Scarlett quite well, as they got to know themselves. I’m not sure I really liked them though, same with Avery. I actually found her to be a bit whiny and self-centred, she just kept thinking about those flip-flops! But perhaps if I had been just holding things together for my family for the past eleven years, when everything had been about the missing Max, perhaps I would want to focus on myself for a while too. I felt sorry for her. The weight on Avery’s shoulders was greater than it should have been at that age, but that doesn’t explain her lack of empathy for her friend Emma and boyfriend Sam. I also couldn’t understand Adam’s lack of enthusiasm in discovering his past.

The Leaving is suitable for middle and upper high school students and beyond. I am now interested in seeing what else Altebrando has to offer!

 

 

 

Weeping Willows by S. B. Rose

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28333619Weeping Willows by S. B. Rose, e-book, novella, 50 pages, published in 2015.

Suzie Edwards is an English major at college, living with her best friend, Melly. When Melly disappears, her boyfriend Craig is the prime suspect. Suzie is still waiting for news of her friend when her parents die suddenly. Are the two incidents related?

Weeping Willows is a quick read with a nice premise. The story has potential, however, the writing requires a lot of polishing. It was riddled with errors, and for some reason my copy was missing quite a number of ‘l’s, especially the second ‘l’ in words like Melly or chilling. This is probably to do with the conversion of the file, but I found it very annoying. There were some grammatical errors as well, but many of the mistakes were one word misplaced for another, such as ‘winching’ instead of ‘wincing’. It interrupted the flow of the story, and is evidence of a lack of editing. Spell-check is simply not enough. I think an extra draft or two could really make a difference here.

I usually like mysteries, but I found myself drowsing whilst reading this. The blurb sounded exciting, but it didn’t reach my expectations, it was only something to pass the time. I didn’t connect with any of the characters, and therefore had no investment in what happened to them. There wasn’t any suspense, and I was disappointed that Suzie didn’t even try to escape her fate. She was a weak and annoyingly boring character. I’m also a little confused about the start of the story, as Suzie remembers something from her childhood that seems to have no bearing on the rest of the story. There was no explanation as to how her family went from poverty apartments to a wealthy neighourhood, perhaps I missed the importance of that.

Weeping Willows is suitable for middle high school students and up.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

 

Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel

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charliepresumeddeadCharlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel, paperback novel, 263 pages, published by Nero in 2015.

Charlie Price is missing and presumed dead after the plane he was flying explodes mid-air. Aubrey and Lena meet at Charlie’s memorial service, discovering that they were both dating him. Neither one knew about the other one, and as they get to know each other, they find that Charlie was very different with each of them. Lena is suspicious of Charlie’s accident. She convinces Aubrey to go with her to search out the truth about Charlie. Both Lena and Aubrey harbour secrets as they set off on their quest for the truth, can they learn to trust each other before it’s too late?

The first time I started this book, I only got a couple of chapters in. It didn’t immediately pull me in, nor did any of the characters speak to me. When I picked it up again I pushed on, and within a few more chapters, I was hooked. So while the start was a little slow, the pace did improve. I read the remainder of the book quite rapidly and I’m glad I gave it another go.

Charlie, Presumed Dead is a psychological thriller for young adults. I did not expect it to be as dark as it was. There was some coarse language and low level violence, but it was Charlie’s callous and detached actions that disturbed me. He is a psychopath, manipulating and lying for his own benefit with no remorse or guilt for those that he injures along the way.

None of the characters were really likeable. I thought I could like Aubrey, with her naivety, but she had deeper and darker layers too. Lena was a spoilt rich girl with not enough parental supervision to mould her into a responsible adult. She is over privileged and throws her money around like it means nothing, jet-setting all over without a second thought. She is quite different to Aubrey, and Charlie presented an appropriate side to each. A quiet intellectual gamer with the reserved Aubrey, while being an eager clubber  and drug user with the more gregarious Lena.

The story was told primarily through alternating chapters by each girl in the first person. This sometimes caused the story to jump around a little, as the same part of the story was retold from the other girl’s perspective. I didn’t mind this method of narration, and I liked that each of them got to convey some of their memories from before they met. There were some chapters written from Charlie’s perspective, but these felt a little wrong. They did succeed in conveying Charlie’s fragile and declining mental state, I just didn’t like the writing style employed in these sections.

The book ended rather abruptly, and the final chapters were chilling. The fate of the girls could be imagined, but I do hope that there will be a sequel.

Charlie, Presumed Dead is suitable for middle to upper high school students and adults.

 

 

The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave by Brydie Walker Bain

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The Secret of Sinbads Cave CoverThe Secret of Sinbad’s Cave by Brydie Walker Bain, e-book, 128 pages, published in 2015.

Nat, Jack and Kathleen Sheppard arrive at their Dad’s farm for the holidays only to be told that the farm in not profitable and must be sold. They are devastated, the farm has been in the family for generations and they love it. While they are still digesting this news, young Kathleen discovers a hidden room alongside the attic. Inside is a set of extraordinary items that will lead the Sheppards on an exciting treasure hunt. This might just be what they need to save the farm, but all adventures have obstacles. They are not the only ones searching for this particular treasure, and their rivals won’t let a few kids stand in the way of success.

The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave is a wonderful fantasy adventure set on the North Island of New Zealand  amidst stunning landscapes and caves carved into the mountains and valleys thousands of years before. The story is fast paced and engaging. I read it fairly quickly and enjoyed every moment of it. It combines mystery and fantasy with drama and adventure to create the perfect hunt for an ancient treasure. It made me think of books such as King Solomon’s Mines, Treasure Island, and The Famous Five books, that I read as a child, and still love today.

The characters are well developed and written. I feel that I got to know the kids rather well through the story, especially Nat. Though I like all the kids, my favourite character is Abraham. He is an amazing leader and protector with a few tricks up his sleeve. As I read about him, my mind conjured an older, yet fairly spry Maori man with the whole wisdom of New Zealand’s history, spirits, legends and myths, as well as an extraordinary insight into human nature. What a beautiful character to guide the young heroes of the story safely through their adventure. The villains were equally well written, and quite dislikable in all respects!

The cover of this book is beautiful. It caught my attention, though it took me a little while to realise what the lights on the roof of the cave are! It would be such an amazing experience to see a cave formation like that, and it is the perfect setting for such a wonderful treasure hunting expedition.

While The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave is suitable for middle to upper primary school children, it is also an exciting read for adults. I look forward to reading Nat’s next adventure in The Ship of Sight and the Hand of Shadow, the second book in The Natnat Adventures series.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Eternal Inheritance by Rachel Meehan

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IMG_4626 (1)Eternal Inheritance by Rachel Meehan, paperback novel, 231 pages, published by Cherry House Publishing in 2015.

Sarah is only twelve, but when men claiming to be police come to take her away from her grandparents, she finds herself on the run. Frightened and alone, she tries to find her way to the city, to a man she has never met, but whom her mother had trusted years before. Marty agrees to help her, and along the way, they befriend Amy and Ellen. Between them, they attempt to uncover the reasons that Sarah is being hunted by the powerful and rich father that she has never known. It is evident that he is not after a family reunion, but what could he want with her, and just how far will he go to obtain her?

Eternal Inheritance was exciting right from the first page, as Sarah escapes her grandparents’ cottage to begin a terrifying flight of survival. It was a fast-paced, page-turning mystery thriller, which I enjoyed. The story flowed well, but was rather complicated with lots of information and back story emerging throughout the book, including science and medical elements. However, everything was brought nicely together at the end, which was quite satisfying!

There was a definite distinction between good and bad in this story. All the characters were well written and easy to picture. Sarah’s father, Parnell, was a formidable character, written as the perfect adversary for young Sarah and her friends. He was rich, powerful and arrogant, with no respect for anyone or anything outside of his own interests. This made him an easy character to hate. A true villain! Conversely, Sarah and Amy seem so vulnerable and so young. They are strong and resourceful though, and I couldn’t help but hope they would triumph over Parnell. I also liked Marty and Ellen, they were very altruistic to risk themselves to help a child they didn’t even know existed until she landed on Marty’s doorstep. They made for good, strong characters to help our young hero on her quest for the truth, and for survival.

Eternal Inheritance is suitable for upper primary school to lower high school students. There was some violence, but none of it was too graphic. I’m happy for my eight year old to read this book, though I think some of the science concepts relating to Parnell might be too confusing for her.

I received Eternal Inheritance for free through Goodreads First Reads.

 

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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IMG_4458We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, paperback novel, 225 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2014.

Harris and Tipper Sinclair have three daughters, and their daughters produce a number of grandchildren. Cadence Sinclair Eastman is the eldest, but only by a few weeks. Next are her cousins Johnny and Mirren, one child for each Sinclair daughter, more grandchildren come, but these three are the first. The family is from old money, they are beautiful, they are strong, they seem to have it all. They even own a private island off the coast of Massachusetts, where the whole family spends their summers together. When Johnny’s mum finds a new partner, she brings along his nephew to spend summer on the island. Gat is the same age as Johnny, Cady and Mirren, and together they are the four liars, best friends growing up together, making mischief, having fun. In the summer before they turn sixteen something terrible happens, an accident, Cady can’t remember, and the family won’t tell her. What are they hiding, and why?

As I read the first page of We Were Liars, I prepared myself for a pretentious, overindulgent and vain story of frivolity and inconsequence. By the second chapter I was intrigued, and by the fourth, I was starting to race through the pages. I had to know what Cady had forgotten, and what was happening to the family.

The story is told from Cady’s perspective, and jumps between the summer of the accident, which her amnesia is blocking, and the summer two years on, when she has returned to the island and her memories are beginning to re-appear. The style of writing employed may not appeal to everyone, though I felt it fit the story quite well. There are elements of romance and family conflict, there are secrets and lies, all revolving around an intriguing mystery leading towards the truth. This book provided me with something that has become increasingly rare for me, an ending that I never saw coming, it slammed me, it made me cry, but it was so very very perfect.

I found all of the characters in We Were Liars to be well written with plenty of depth, surprisingly, I liked the four liars. These teenage characters of Cady, Johnny, Mirren and Gat had some aspects of spoilt rich kid, but they were still likeable. They were stifled and embarrassed by the behaviour of the adults, with ideals which were refreshing, but they still took it for granted that they would always have whatever they wanted. The way that Cady changes after the accident is interesting, she is a complicated girl, suffering debilitating migraines, and hovered over by her mother. Part of me wanted to dislike her for her assumption of continuous wealth and security, but I couldn’t, she was doing it tough in a lot of ways, and I felt for her.

The adults, though less central to the plot, were as expected of adults in a privileged family. During the summer of the accident, the aunties are arguing over money and property and the love of their father. Harris Sinclair is manipulative and uses his immense fortune to play his daughters off one another. Rich people are often portrayed in literature and film using their money as power and needing more and more no matter who they trample on to get it. Not knowing anyone with this sort of money at their disposable, I must assume that this is only a slight exaggeration of reality, and the behaviour of the Sinclairs is consistent with this image. I thought that the way the three women wheedled, connived and ingratiated themselves in order to gain favour with Harris was pitiful, yet completely plausible. I find this behaviour bewildering, but then I’ve never had lots of money to fight over before!

One of the best young adult novels that I have read in some time, We Were Liars, is a stunning read for high school students and up. Give it a go, it’ll surprise you, and it will stay with you for a very long time.

 

 

Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman

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IMG_3715Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman, paperback novel, 344 pages, published by Faber and Faber Limited in 2014.

Strictly ruled by a group of council members, the settlement has been isolated and lost from other people for several generations. It is surrounded by tall walls from which guards watch the surrounding forest through the night, waiting for signs of the malmaci, a dangerous beast that sometimes takes settlement members. It is important that no one leaves the safety of the settlement after dark, and even during the day, no one should stray too far into the woods. Most of the members of the settlement are obedient and adhere to the routines, rules and rituals of their community, but sometimes a member will stray from the path, becoming known as wayward or stained, bringing shame to their families. Another major concern for the settlement is the freezing winter known as the Winterkill which is almost upon them as Emmeline comes of age. As a cripple and a stained person, she is surprised by a marriage proposal, while still trying to figure out her feelings for another boy in the settlement. All the while she is drawn to the woods, curious as to what lies beyond the settlement. Her curiosity may result in dire consequences for herself, and the other members of her community, but without risk, there can not be discovery.

Winterkill reminded me a lot of M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Village. There were many similar points, isolated village, monster lurking in the forest, overbearing and strict leaders. I liked that movie, but I like this book even more. Right from the start I liked Emmeline. She has determination, courage and individuality in a society which promotes conformity and compliance. A very interesting and strong character that jumps from the page, I just wanted everything to work out well for her. I also liked Kane, the boy that Emmeline fancies. He too, was very well written, interesting and somewhat mysterious. The characters and the landscape became increasingly clear to me as I read, or more fell into Emmeline’s world. I felt her isolation, her shame, her disappointment and wariness. And I felt her desire to explore, to love and to make her Pa proud again. This is definitely a story I won’t forget in a hurry.

This young adult novel is suitable for upper primary through high school students. I found Winterkill to be an intriguing and page-turning read that I would recommend for any fan of dystopian fiction. I have read on Kate A. Boorman’s website that this to be the first book of a triology, with the next book to be released later this year. I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment.