Tag Archives: mystery

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 ZealandĀ  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.

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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.

 

 

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

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IMG_37131Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick, paperback novel, 392 pages, published by Simon & Schuster in 2014.

Britt Pfeiffer has convinced her best friend, Korbie, to backpack through the Teton Ranges in Wyoming for the spring break of their final year of high school. The girls have very little experience hiking through the ranges, but Korbie’s parents’ own a large cabin on the shores of a lake in the mountains, which they can use as a base for their adventure. The weather turns foul as they journey up the mountain, forcing them to abandon their vehicle and seek shelter from the driving snow. Sodden and fatigued they find salvation in a small cabin in the forest, where two young men are also waiting out the storm. For two pretty and exuberant girls, it should be fun to shack up with two handsome lads like Mason and Shaun for the night, but the boys have plans, and the girls are at their mercy. Britt finds herself fighting her way down the mountain through the dark and swirling storm, surrounded by dangers both environmental and human.

Elements of adventure, mystery, suspense, and romance are intertwined in this captivating young adult novel. Black Ice was a sled ride through the mountains, full of twists and dark turns, that kept me guessing. There were some well written action sequences, with plenty of teenage deliberation and introspection, and some non-graphic romantic scenes. It was an exciting read with palpable tension, that I blew through quickly as I needed to know what happened next.

The characters were all rather bratty and entitled, and I greatly disliked Korbie and her brother, Calvin. It seemed incongruous that Britt would be friends with Korbie, but they had been friends for a long time and it is often hard to let those relationships go. I liked the way that Britt developed as a character through the story. From reliance on the men in her life while taking them for granted, she grows to be a more resourceful, strong and independent leading lady. This traumatic experience strengthens rather than unravels her, always good for a female protagonist. Mason was a very complicated, yet intriguing character which many moods and secrets. He could have gone either way for most of the book, while Shaun was obviously derailed and dangerous. The shallowness and selfishness of several of the characters served to highlight the complexity and intensity of Britt and Mason.

Being a young adult novel, plenty of teenage issues were touched upon, relationships, first love, kissing, physical and emotional insecurities. This helps to shape the novel into something that teenagers can relate to, and it seems to be endemic in this genre. While the sexual elements of this book were quite tame, there was violence and death that may disturb more innocent or immature readers.

Black Ice is most suitable for middle to upper high school students and beyond.

Friday Barnes Girl Detective by R. A. Spratt

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IMG_3690Friday Barnes Girl Detective by R. A. Spratt, paperback novel, 256 pages, published by Random House Australia in 2014.

Friday Barnes Girl Detective is a new series from R. A. Spratt, the creator of the Nanny Piggins series. The story follows Friday Barnes, a rather unusual eleven year old, with an uncanny ability of solving mysteries. She is the youngest daughter of two academics who have not the time nor the inclination to provide their genius daughter with the emotional support and attention that most children experience. They are just a little too preoccupied with their work, which has left Friday to to do much as she pleases. As she mostly likes to learn, experiment and observe, she doesn’t usually get up to too much mischief. After Friday solves a bank robbery case, she uses the reward money to enrol herself at Highcrest Academy, the most exclusive boarding school in the country. As soon as she arrives, Friday realises that beneath the school’s veneer of respectability are mysterious occurrences, learning competitiveness and general rich-kid hi-jinks. She quickly finds herself solving cases of missing homework and false accusations, dealing with a boy in her class who inexplicably appears to hate her, and most interesting of all, the Yeti that has made a home for itself in the school’s swamp.

Friday is a very interesting character. She is intelligent, precocious, peculiar, observant, and yet lacks the ability to correctly decipher social cues, and she dresses terribly! She reminds me a lot of that great and strange detective, Sherlock Holmes, who has been a favourite of mine since childhood. This young detective has definitely got me interested. I was reading this book to my third grader, a few chapters each day, except she liked Friday Barnes so much she sneakily read the rest of it without me!

All the characters were well written, and easily conjured in the imagination. I quite liked Friday’s best friend, the airy Melanie, who fulfilled the faithful sidekick role so well. And of course, our hero must have an arch nemesis, in this case, Ian Wainscott, who has a penchant for mean pranks and snide remarks.

As Friday is a genius this book contained some advanced language and terms that my third grader had not run across previously, mostly regarding her abilities in maths and science. I explained these terms, but they seemed mostly to serve the point of Friday’s extreme intelligence rather than to progress the story, and as such their inclusion did not lessen the enjoyment my third grader gained from the book. She quite happily devoured the story as it should be taken, with great enthusiasm and intrigue.

Suitable for children in middle primary school through to lower high school, Friday Barnes Girl Detective is the start of a great series, sure to entertain young mystery fans. We are now eagerly anticipating reading the second book in the series, Friday Barnes Under Suspicion, which has been recently released in Australia.

The Haunting of Lily Frost by Nova Weetman

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IMG_3158The Haunting of Lily Frost by Nova Weetman, paperback novel, 230 pages, published by University of Queensland Press in 2014.

When Melbourne teenager Lily Frost discovers her parents have decided to suddenly move the family to a small country town two hours out of the city, she is very upset. When she sees the house that her parents have bought in the little town of Gideon, she is even less impressed. It is a large house, but it’s big and spooky, and the attic room seems to be calling her. Lily is ripped away from her safe city life with her best friend, Ruby, and finds herself making friends with a cute boy, Danny, and being haunted by the ghost of a missing girl. Tilly, who disappeared nine months before is trying to tell Lily something, but will anyone believe her, or is she imagining it all?

The Haunting of Lily Frost wasn’t terrifying, but there were some creepy scenes. Reading about the attic room in the big old house, I got a bit of a shiver. The house that I conjured up looked extremely scary, with huge gaping eye windows and a screaming door mouth. Okay, I’ve probably read a few too many spooky house stories, but what can I say, I love them! Also I was reading this book late at night, with only my reading lamp, which added to the atmosphere. All ghost stories should be read at night for the full effect!

As a character, Lily was a little pouty and selfish, but I am seeing her as her parents would see her. For a teenager, I think she was well described and developed, along with the other teenage characters. Danny and his twin sister Julia were interesting characters. Julia was so bitter and mean and very catty towards Lily, without any possible cause, which I think is all too common in high school. Danny was extremely different to his sister, he was sweet and welcoming, though he wasn’t entirely altruistic, he wanted a friend outside of the small group of narrow-minded individuals already attending the school in Gideon. Lily was not used to making friends easily, and this made her wary of Danny’s initial overtures of friendship. These felt like normal and real teenage interactions, which really helped to enliven the story. I also liked Lily’sĀ  little brother, Max, so easy going and a bit of a snitch, just as I imagine younger brothers to be. The teenager angst angle, was good, with Lily’s and Ruby’s relationship and how they interact when separated. How the relationship fared once complicated by boy issues, including Ruby’s reactions to Lily’s jealousy and selfishness had a ring of truth, and assisted in developing the characters even further. The reader was really able to know the characters.

The Haunting of Lily Frost was a fairly standard ghost story suitable for upper primary school and high school children. It contained all the important elements, such as suddenly cold air, moving objects, mystery and the sensation of being touched by something that cannot be seen. Still, I found myself eager to discover what had happened to Tilly, which kept me turning pages. The plot would thicken at just the right moments, and some of the chapters left me hanging, forcing me to read ‘just one more chapter…’. As the story progressed, the tension built, leaving me wondering if Lily was actually losing it. Overall I liked this book, it was very entertaining. I think that children and teenagers interested in ghost stories and mysteries should definitely try it (possibly at night by torchlight!)

 

Upside Down in the Jungle by Helen Phillips

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IMG_1309Upside Down in the Jungle by Helen Phillips, paperback novel, 333 pages, first published under the title Here Where the Sunbeams are Green by Delacorte Press in 2012, this edition published by The Chicken House in 2013.

Mad and Roo have a famous ornithologist for a father, Dr Wade, also known as The Bird Guy. He travels to find rare and important birds regularly, but when he is asked to track and catalogue rare birds in the jungle by an exclusive resort at the base of a volcano, he doesn’t return. His family begin to worry, and then they receive the Very Strange and Incredibly Creepy Letter that appears to be nonsense, but Roo is convinced it’s a coded message. Their mother, Sylvia, thinks that they are being watched, and a colleague of The Bird Guy has started hanging around the family constantly. The whole situation is very odd, and eventually the family flies to the jungle to find Dr Wade, where things only become stranger. With the help of Kyle, the grandson of the owners of the lodge where the family are staying, Mad and Roo are determined to uncover the truth about their father and just what he is doing in the jungle and why he hasn’t come home yet.

Adventure, mystery, first romance and an incredibly rare bird, believed to be extinct in the jungles of South America, are found in this exciting novel for middle to upper primary and lower high school students. Told from the perspective of Mad, a twelve-almost-thirteen year old, who finds herself unwillingly unravelling the mystery of her father’s reluctance to return from the jungle or to communicate with his family, spurred on by her younger sister Roo. They team up with the charming, yet cheeky, Kyle, who is supposed to be teaching them Spanish, but is much more concerned with locating the rare volcano bird that he knows to exist, though it had previously been reported to be extinct. This novel was fast paced and intriguing, with beautiful imagery. I enjoyed reading it, and had difficultly putting it down. I became involved in the fortunes of the characters, and hoped that they would find the bird and solve the mystery. It was very well written, the characters were well developed, and it was easy to conjure their images in my mind. A fantastic book. I look forward to reading more by Helen Phillips in the future.