Monday, July 29, 2013

Read The Forsaken online at Pulseit (1 wk only)

Lisa M Stasse's The Forsaken is this week's online read at Pulseit. You have to register and the book can be read in full until 4 August.

Choose a tribe. Watch your back. And don’t stop running.

Filled with thrilling adventure and romance,
The Forsaken is praised by as “a fast-paced novel [that] you’ll get sucked into. You just can’t seem to put [it] down.”

As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the US, and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help standing out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to the wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

The life expectancy of prisoners on the wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and a charismatic warrior named Liam concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Interworld by Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves

Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves (April 2013, HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks, ISBN: 0007523424)

Interworld is the first in a new science-fiction series and introduces Joey Harker, most famous for getting lost. A school project by an unorthodox teacher has the students dropped off around town in groups, and told to find their way to a certain point. Joey, initially confident, to impress one of his female companions soon has them lost and when he goes ahead enters a mist. When he comes out of the mist things are slightly different and he when he gets back to his home he finds that's changed and his mum doesn't recognise him. He's then attacked by people on hover-boards and is subsequently rescued by a someone in a space-age suit who sounds awfully familiar but whose identity is concealed. Joey runs, as instructed, and finds himself lost and not just geographically...

It seems that Joey is a Walker who can walk between worlds – worlds that can appear when an important decision is made – two choices – two worlds – and that he, along with all the other variants of Joey, is needed to help maintain the balance between two very different groups who want to control all the worlds.

Interworld is a classic story told against a SF background. Joey, initially gauche and not that bright finds a purpose and through training becomes stronger and cleverer and ultimately a leader. Along this journey he faces antagonism from his Walker peers, rejection, before a reluctant acceptance and a future.

Interworld is a quick read and is based on a tv premise that Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves tried to sell over fifteen years ago. I'm not sure that the tv, at least at that time, would have been able to do visual justice to the crazy worlds that the story visits. I quite enjoyed Interworld, though I found Joey's transformation a little implausible, and I also didn't find I was immersed in it as much as I should have been, due to a lack of depth in the world-building and an uneven tone. Nonetheless I shall read the sequel The Silver Dream (out now). The third part of the trilogy will be out in 2014.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Read Poison Princess online at Pulseit (1 wk only)

Kresley Cole's Poison Princess is this week's online read at Pulseit. You have to register and the book can be read in full until 28 July.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole introduces The Arcana Chronicles, post-apocalyptic tales filled with riveting action, the dark mysticism of Tarot cards, and breathtaking romance.

She could save the world—or destroy it.

Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life—until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, killing everyone she loves, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

But she can’t do either alone.

With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally trust Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side…

In Poison Princess, New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole introduces a dark and intriguing world, full of unspeakable danger and irresistible romance.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Free Ebook - Will Hill novella

Will Hill's The Secret History of a Teenage Vampire (96 pages) is free on both Kindle and Kobo.

A short story from the world of Department 19.

In 1891, Abraham Van Helsing and a group of friends faced Dracula, the world’s first vampire – and won. The survivors of that battle founded Department 19, and have been secretly saving the world ever since. A highly classified archive exists recording every act of bravery in that time.

That archive is now open.

These are the Department 19 files.

Secret Department 19 headquarters, present day.

Larissa Kinley is a fully armed Operator for Department 19, a secret branch of the government dedicated to saving us all from the supernatural. She's also a vampire. And a teenage girl. When the 17-year-old survivor of a vampire attack is brought to the Department's base, Larissa finally finds the courage to tell someone her deepest secrets. But when the past catches up with you, sometimes it has fangs…

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: The Case of the Good-Looking Corpse by Caroline Lawrence

The Case of the Good-Looking Corpse by Caroline Lawrence (June 2013, Orion Children, ISBN: 444006460)

The Case of the Good-Looking Corpse takes place straight after The Case of the Deadly Desperados and sees the return of the young orphan P K Pinkerton. It's 1862, PK is twelve and is now running a detective agency in Virginia City. PK's first case is to solve the biggest mystery in town – who strangled Short Sally? PK is hired by Sally's maid, an ex-slave girl of a similar age to PK, who witnessed her mistress's murder and is in fear of her own life. So much so that she disappears almost straight away. The description of the murderer is that he is tall, blond and has a “billy-goat” beard. As the investigation progresses PK finds that there are many such men matching that description!

The reader gets to know more of PK's little foibles and eccentricities and way of coping with the world such as tricks to remember people's names. PK's “thorn” is an inability to read people but several friends of PK offer words of advice and tips. PK still remains somewhat mysterious though and has a “secret”...

The Case of the Good-Looking Corpse is a fabulous entry in the series, possibly even better than the first. I was completely immersed. I loved the setting, the snippets of American history, the inclusion of real characters like “Mark Twain” and there's plenty of action and lots of close calls for PK. The case is solved in a very Sherlock Holmes tradition and though I had my suspicions as to the guilty party I hadn't spotted all the clues. PK returns in the intriguingly titled The Case of the Pistol-Packing Widows (out now).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Some upcoming crime novels

The CWA's crime writing month officially finished last night however I have a couple more posts I'd like to include so I'll carry-on a bit longer!

Crime is doing big business at the moment looking at what's coming in the next few weeks alone These all look very good and I haven't even included Soul Storm by Kate Harrison as I didn't want to see any spoilers as I'm half-way through book two, Soul Fire, as I write.

4 July

Dead Jealous by Sharon Jones

People think of Mother Nature as a gentle lady. They forget that she's also Death. Sixteen-year-old Poppy Sinclair believes in quantum particles, not tarot cards, in Dawkins, not druids. Last summer, in a boating accident in the Lake District, Poppy had a brush with death. But the girl she finds face down in Scariswater hasn't been so lucky. As she fights to discover the truth behind what she believes is murder, Poppy is forced to concede that people and things are not always what they seem and, slipping ever deeper into a web of lies, jealousy and heart-stopping danger, she comes to realise - too late - that the one thing that can save her has been right there, all the time.

Carnaby by Cate Sampson

Sarah aka Carnaby has a tough life, but it suddenly gets a whole lot tougher when her mother is found murdered, her sister goes into labour and her new baby nephew is threatened with being taken into care. Sarah doesn't remember finding her mother's body, but she does remember hearing about other murders on the estate where they live. Is there a connection - and can Sarah find out what is going on, without putting herself and her family in even more danger?

18 July 

Spy Society by Robin Benway

Believe it or not, there are some drawbacks to being a 16-year old safecracker, daughter of spies, and member of an organization that fights corruption and wrongdoing around the world. For example: never getting to stay in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend, being the only spy ever to have a 10 p.m. curfew, and being sent on assignment to Russia. In the winter. For Maggie Silver, the compensation for the vast inconvenience of being a teenage spy has been avoiding high school and its accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple security on the lockers. (If it's three digits or less, why even bother?) But when Maggie and her parents are sent to New York on a major assignment, all of that changes. She'll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school's security system, and befriend the aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the information she needs to crack the case, all while trying not to blow her cover. The first in a new series from Robin Benway, Also Known As, is the perfect read for fans of The Gallagher Girls.
The Dead Girl Detective Agency by Suzy Cox

Solving the mystery behind your death can be murder. Charlotte wakes up at Hotel Atessa, home to murdered New York teenagers and HQ of The Dead Girls Detective Agency. Before she has time to adjust to her new, erm, dead self, she's thrust into the arms of her new afterlife companions, Lorna, Nancy and the cute - if slightly hostile - dead boy, Eddison. But where does this leave Charlotte and her boyfriend David? Is it possible to have a long-distance relationship from beyond the grave? The only way out of this limbo is to figure out who killed her, or she'll have to spend eternity here. But who could hate her enough to want her dead?

 Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

It's Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations. As Anna sets out to find her friend's killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love. As she awaits the judge's decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine...

1 August

Cruel Summer by James Dawson

A year after the suicide of one of their friends, the rest of the group decide to spend the summer together in a holiday villa in the Mediterranean. They're hoping to get over the terrible events of the previous year, but then a new guest arrives - claiming to have evidence that the suicide was actually murder. When she is found dead, it becomes clear that the killer must be one of them - but who is it? And will they strike again? A compelling psychological thriller - with a dash of romance.

And a January 2014 release in the US -
No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.

Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Kentucky Thriller by Lauren St John

Kentucky Thriller by Lauren St John (July 2013, Orion Childrens, ISBN: 1444006479)

Eleven-year-old Laura Marlin is back in her third adventure Kentucky Thriller which not surprisingly is set mainly in Kentucky. Laura, her best friend Tariq and her guardian Uncle Calvin are setting off on a picnic not far from their St Ives (Cornwall) home when they nearly collide with a horse box abandoned after a crash. They are shocked to discover that there is a horse inside - thankfully unhurt - and the situation seems very fishy. There is a delay but eventually they find that the horse is a valuable thoroughbred stolen from the US and the owner is so overjoyed that he offers them a two-week holiday with his family at their horse farm as they prepare for the huge race that is the Kentucky Derby.

Laura has to leave her beloved dog Skye and uncle behind but is accompanied by Tariq. No sooner have they arrived then strange things happen. Both the children have life-threatening experiences at the hands (feet?) of horses. It seems someone doesn't want then around but who and why? After a rocky start they make friends with their hosts' grand-daughter (whom I hope will reappear in a later book) and set to work to solve the many mysteries surrounding them.

Kentucky Thriller is my favourite so far of the series I think. Though it has an exotic setting the crime is a classic one involving betrayal, skullduggery and greed. I love that Laura is an environmentalist and a vegetarian - though the author does not labour the points - and that the series covers important themes in an accessible way. Tariq has a much welcomed larger role than in the previous two books. The fourth book, Rendezvous in Russia is published 1 August 2013.

Read my reviews of the previous two books here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Crime Writing Month: New Historical Crime Titles

Sharon Gosling's Victorian mystery, The Diamond Thief, published in February 2013 has been well received and is currently at a bargain price in both kindle and epub formats.

No-one performs on the circus trapeze like 16-year-old Remy Brunel. But Remy also leads another life, prowling through the backstreets of Victorian London as a jewel thief. When she is forced to steal one of the world’s most valuable diamonds, she uncovers a world of treachery and fiendish plots, and makes a friend of a nice young police detective...  

First published last year, Theresa Breslin's Spy for the Queen of Scots has just come out in paperback.

As lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots, the beautiful Ginette - known as Jenny - is the young queen's closest childhood friend. Growing up in the elegant but ruthless French court, surrounded by enemies and traitors - not least the jealous, manipulative Catherine de Medici, and Mary's own scheming half-brother, James - Jenny has always been fiercely loyal to her mistress. But when she overhears a mysterious whispered plot, closely followed by several unexplained deaths at court, she puts her own life in danger and turns spy for Mary. Jenny quickly realises not a soul at court can be trusted, and when she and Mary return to their Scottish homeland for Mary to claim her throne, they face even greater peril. Desperate to protect her friend from those who would slit her throat to steal her crown, while battling her feelings for the charismatic nobleman Duncan Alexander, Jenny becomes embroiled in a dangerous web of secrets, betrayals and lies.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Crime Writing Month: Chris Ould's Street Duty series

Last October Chris Ould's Street Duty introduced sixteen-year-old trainee police officer Holly Blades. She returned in The Killing Street published last month (June).

Victim: teenage female (13-14?). Unconscious. Head injury, laceration to arm. Struck by lorry. Driver present at scene. Possible victim ID = Ashleigh Jarvis. Bus pass + purse in pocket. No shoes. Feet dirty. When Ashleigh is taken to hospital following a traffic accident, an examination of the unconscious girl reveals injuries that suggest a disturbing series of events prior to her being knocked down. Ashleigh has been keeping a dark secret - and sixteen-year-old Trainee Police Officer, Holly Blades, will stop at nothing to discover the truth. Gritty, electrifying drama from BAFTA award-winning writer, Chris Ould: the freshest blood in YA crime fiction.

Gemma loves Dean, but he's making her do things that she doesn't want to do. Ryan did a deal to join up with the Kaddy Boys, but now he's in, there's no getting out. Taz is being paid to be an informant for the cops, but is she getting too close to the targets? And when Trainee Police Officer Holly Blades attends her first suspicious death, is she really ready for the impact that being a copper can have on your family, your friends and your life? Especially when you know one of the suspects...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Theodore Boone: The Activist by John Grisham

Theodore Boone: The Activist by John Grisham (May 2013, Hodder & Stoughton , ISBN: 9781444728934)

Thirteen-year-old wannabe lawyer Theodore Boone is back in his fourth adventure The Activist. The politicians for Theodore's home of Strattenburg want a bypass around the town to alleviate congestion. The plan is a controversial one and soon becomes personal to Theodore when his friend Hardie asks for his help. Hardie's family home and its substantial acreage, lie in the path of the proposed bypass and the US equivalent of a compulsory purchase order will be enacted, destroying it.

Theodore is pushed into helping Hardie after a violent confrontation with contractors on Hardie's land. Theodore works with the environmental group to fight the bypass. In addition he obtains some illegal information which would win the fight - but should he use it?

The Activist takes it time to get to the actual protesting as we follow Theodore briefly through a debating contest (ultimately relevant) and a lengthy scouting outing where Theodore is for once not portrayed as the golden boy (not so relevant). Overall however it is an uplifting tale if not totally plausible which should inspire younger readers. Aside from the disappointing The Abduction, the other three books in the series have been of a similar, solid, standard. We've had murder, kidnapping, victimisation. What's next for Theodore Boone and will we ever find out the reason for his uncle's disgrace?

There are some moral dilemmas in The Activist and the book includes a series of questions on these to spark further discussion.

As usual this is marketed at both teens and adults though the writing is aimed at slightly younger than teen I feel. Theodore knows the law but has to have the term bypass explained to him; he's also not a very fast cyclist as it takes him and April thirty minutes to cycle one and a half walking speed.

Read my reviews of the first three books here.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Crime Writing Month: Lauren Child's Ruby Redfort

Lauren Child's (dedicated*) Ruby Redfort series began in 2011 with Look into My Eyes, with Take Your Last Breath published in 2012. The 2013 offering is as yet untitled. There has also been this for World Book Day - Hang in There Bozo: The Ruby Redfort Emergency Survival Guide for Some Tricky Predicaments.

This is not a series I've read yet but it is enjoyed by my reading group of 10-12 year olds.
* Ruby Redfort first appeared in the Clarice Bean novels.

Hey, buster! Normal life is a total yawn. Break out of boredom with Ruby Redfort, the super-awesome new creation from multi-million-copy bestseller Lauren Child...Want to know more? Of course you do, bozo. Here's the low-down on Ruby Redfort: she's a genius code-cracker, a daring detective, and a gadget-laden special agent who just happens to be a thirteen-year-old girl. She and her slick side-kick butler, Hitch, foil crimes and get into loads of scrapes with evil villains, but they're always ice-cool in a crisis. In LOOK INTO MY EYES, we go right back to Ruby's beginnings as an agent. When an anonymous caller sets Ruby a challenge, it's not long before she finds her way into the HQ of the most secret of secret agencies - SPECTRUM. They need her help to crack a code but her desk job soon spirals into an all-out action adventure, as Ruby uncovers the dastardly plans of the formidable Fool's Gold Gang...

Everyone's favourite kid detective is back for a second mind-blowing instalment, packed with all the off-the-wall humour, action and friendship of the first book. This time, though, it's an adventure on the wide open ocean, and Ruby is all at sea...Can she crack the case of the Twinford pirates while evading the clutches of a vile sea monster as well as the evil Count von Viscount? Well, you wouldn't want to bet against her...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: The Flip Flop Club: Midnight Messages by Ellen Richardson

The Flip Flop Club: Midnight Messages by Ellen Richardson (January 2013, Oxford University Press, ISBN: 019275663X)

Review: Midnight Messages is the third adventure for the trio, Elly, Tash and Sierra who are all currently based on Sunday Island during an idyllic summer. Elly is living with her aunt, following the death of her mother; Tash is a native, and Sierra is there whilst her father is writing about the history of the island.

The book begins with a sleepover in Tash's treehouse where she has brought some of the inventions of her late grandfather. One of which is a ghost detector...which happens to go off! A haunted treehouse and what are those lights flashing down in the graveyard? The girls creep down and though the lights disappear they hear otherworldly scratchings.

Adding to the spooky goings on is Elly's aunt's guest Celeste, a medium who insists they have a séance and Tash hears noises in her home's library. What is the source of all this ghostly activity?

The girls have to overcome many of their fears to investigate, including going into a tomb and scrabbling through claustrophobic tunnels and protecting the treehouse from an intruder.

Midnight Messages fits nicely into both summer reading and the 2013 theme for the Summer Reading Challenge which is Creepy House. Aimed at (around) nine year olds this series harks back to the adventures written by Enid Blyton where the children stay out all night and roam the island with no parental supervision and in this episode outwit the 'villain' by themselves - with help from Tash's dog Mojo. It's a bit scary in parts and a serious note is added briefly when Elly is unsettled by the thought of the séance as it's not such a game to her given her personal circumstances.

At 191 pages, Midnight Messages is slightly longer than the two previous entries, Charmed Summer and Whale Song. It also contains the first chapter of book four, Star Struck (out now), and some puzzles and a very yummy sounding recipe for French Toast!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Crime Writing Month: Sally Gardner's Wings & Co

I have a copy in my hands of Sally Gardner's first book in the Wings & Co series, Operation Bunny; the second book, Three Pickled Herrings, came out in February 2013. This younger age range, 7+, is very well served for new detective series (see also Mariella Mystery, Maisie Hitchins, Ghost Detectives).

Emily Vole makes headline news in the first weeks of her life, when she is found in an abandoned hatbox in Stansted Airport. Then, only a few years later, her neighbour Mrs String dies leaving Emily a mysterious inheritance: an old shop, a small bunch of golden keys and a cat called Fidget. It's the beginning of an adventure of a lifetime as the old Fairy Detective Agency comes back to life. It is up to Emily to reopen the shop, and recall the fairies to duty. Together they must embark on their first mystery and do battle with their great fairy-snatching enemy, Harpella.

At the Wings & Co. Fairy Detective Agency, Emily Vole and her friends are beginning to worry. It's five months since their official opening and they still haven't had one case. Then local landowner Sir Walter Cross dies suddenly and mysteriously. The detectives suspect fairy meddling. And when Mr Rollo the tailor mysteriously loses everything and Pan Smith's wedding plans are ruined the night before her big day, they're convinced there must be magic at play. Now they have not one, but three pickled herrings to deal with! Can they solve the mystery of who is stealing people's luck before the meddling fairy goes too far?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: Atticus Claw Breaks the Law by Jennifer Gray

Atticus Claw Breaks the Law by Jennifer Gray (September 2012, 224p, Faber Children's Books, ISBN: 9780571284498)

Atticus Claw Breaks the Law
is the first in a new series featuring brown tabby, Atticus Grammaticus Cattypus Claw 'the world's greatest cat burglar'.

Atticus is brought back to England, from Monte Carlo, by a missive from an unknown party. When he arrives, he finds his employer is a trio of magpies lead by Jimmy, who want to get their revenge on humans after the death of some of their fellows at the hands of cars. Jimmy wants Atticus to rob houses in Littleton-on-Sea. In addition the birds have a secret plan to steal a priceless tiara at the upcoming, televised antiques fair. Atticus agrees, in return for sardines.

An unexpected change in Atticus's life begins when he is 'rescued' by two children who happen to be the offspring of Inspector Cheddar and Mrs Cheddar. The former has to solve the robberies and the latter is organising the antiques fair. Atticus begins to find that he likes his new home and then the love of a good woman cat leads him to reconsider his career...

Though Atticus Claw Breaks the Law is ostensibly for eight to ten year olds, it is a humorous and charming read for cat owners of all ages as they will recognise the cat's behaviour and thought patterns. It is also a gentle, proper, crime novel, with crimes and villains and a cunning plan to capture them. The second book, Atticus Claw Settles a Score, is already available and the third, Atticus Claw Lends a Paw, is out in August 2013. I'll be seeking them both out.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Crime Writing Month: Kate Pankhurst's Mariella Mystery

Another new series which has come to my attention (but is not yet in the library) is Kate Pankhurst's Mariella Mystery series. Book one, The Ghostly Guinea Pig and book two, A Cupcake Conundrum, were published in April 2013. A third book, The Huge Hair Scare, is due out in October. As with the Maisie Hitchins series the target audience is the seven to nine (ish)-year-olds but these appear to be told in a diary style with illustrations.

Mariella Mystery (That's me!) - totally amazing girl detective, aged 9 and a bit. Able to solve the most mysterious mysteries and perplexing problems, even before breakfast.

When their teacher Miss Crumble spots the ghost of her pet guinea pig, Mr Darcy, in her back garden, she doesn't know what to think. But Mariella knows it's up to her and her fellow Mystery Girls to get to the bottom of The Case of the Ghostly Guinea Pig.

Someone is trying to sabotage the Great Puddleford Bake-Off, 'Bake or Break'. It's up to Mariella and her Mystery Girls to work out who, to save the Victoria sponges and pavlovas and prevent the entire contest from turning into a veritable Cupcake Catastrophe and Kitchen Nightmare.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Crime Writing Month: Holly Webb's Maisie Hitchins series

The Victorian era continues to prove popular for crime fiction series for younger readers. Holly Webb has joined other writers covering this period, such as Cora Harrison and Joan Lingard, by starting the Maisie Hitchins series aimed at six/seven to eight/nine year olds. The first two books The Case of the Stolen Sixpence and The Case of the Vanishing Emerald came out in May 2013 with a third, The Case of the Phantom Cat, due out in August.

From best-selling author Holly Webb comes a brand new series full of mystery and intrigue following the adventures of a very determined heroine and her dog! Holly Webb fans will be thrilled to pieces to discover the adventures of Maisie Hitchins, the pluckiest little detective in Victorian London. Maisie Hitchins lives in her grandmother's boarding house, longing for adventure. She idolizes the famous detective, Gilbert Carrington, and follows his every case. But Maisie is about to be given the opportunity of a lifetime: her own mystery to solve! In the first book in this fantastic new series, Maisie rescues a puppy in peril whilst running an errand, and adopts him. She decides to investigate the puppy's original cruel owner, but instead gets tangled up in an intriguing plot involving stolen sausages, pilfered halfpennies and a fast-paced bicycle chase. The streets of Victorian London are never safe, but Maisie's on the case!

Maisie Hitchins lives in her grandmother's boarding house, longing for adventure. She idolizes the famous detective, Gilbert Carrington, and follows his every case. Together, with her faithful pup Eddie, Maisie is determined to follow even the slightest scent of a mystery - no matter what! Maisie can't help listening in when the famed star of the stage, Sarah Massey, visits a friend at the boarding house. Sarah is distraught - her beau, a mysterious young man, gave her a priceless emerald necklace, and it's now missing! Maisie is instantly intrigued, and decides to investigate the theatre. But nothing is what it seems in this world of make-believe...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Crime Writing Month: Emily Mason's Ghost Detectives

Emily Mason's Ghost Detectives is a new series to me which I haven't had time to read yet. So far there are two books, The Lost Bride (2012) and The Missing Dancer (2013). Aimed at 8-12 year olds they are perfect for this year's Summer Reading Challenge theme - Creepy House!

Some ghosts are haunted by their past. When the local museum needs volunteers to help it reopen, Abi, Hannah, Sarah and Grace sign up. The girls discover that the museum has a link to the spirit world when they find an ancient diary and meet a ghost bride from another century. She can't rest in peace until she finds out why her true love left her at the altar. The Ghost Detectives have a romantic first mystery to solve.

When Abi, Sarah , Hannah and Grace are visited by the ghost of a little lost girl trying to dance one last time so that her spirit can rest, they jump at the chance to help. But this Ghost Detective case seems to be shrouded in secrets and everywhere they look, people get upset.

With clues running out, can the Ghost Detectives solve the mystery of the missing dancer?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Dead to You by Lisa McMann

Dead to You by Lisa McMann (May 2013, 288p, Scholastic, ISBN: 1407137239)

Lisa McMann, author of the Wake trilogy and The Missing (apa Cryer's Cross) turns away from supernatural/paranormal elements to give us this heartbreaking psychological thriller.

Ethan De Wilde, was abducted outside his home when he was seven. Nine years later, Ethan is restored to his original family. He spent years with a woman called Ellen before she placed him in a care home from which he escaped. After spending a year on the streets and a lot of time on the library's computer he found himself - listed on the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children's website.

The family unit is now complete. He is welcomed by his mum and dad and new young sister Gracie but his now thirteen-year-old brother Blake has his reservations. Why can't Ethan remember anything about the first seven years of his life?

Dead to You, charts the integration of Ethan back into family life and all the stresses and strains of being found, especially with his memory loss. The main positive thing in his life is his developing relationship with neighbour Cami with whom he wants to be more than just friends.

As tensions mount within the family, you turn the pages faster and faster to see how the story will end and my, does it ends on a bang.

Lisa McMann's books always leave me wanting more. They are quick page-turning reads and in Dead to You you really feel for Ethan and his situation. He was very honest with himself and a believable character. His little sister is adorable. I would love it if this turned out not to be the standalone it was intended to be, as you really want to find out what happens next to Ethan and the family.

Dead to You
throws up a lot of questions about the nature of family and the bonds within it and I can see it being a great book for discussion at a reading group.

A cautionary note - there are multiple uses of the f-word and some mild sexual content so probably one for older teens.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Crime Writing Month 2013

It's currently the Crime Writers' Association's crime writing month which ends on 15 July:
National Crime Writing Month is a unique literary festival throughout the UK which promotes the Crime genre, both fiction and non-fiction. It is a major annual initiative coordinated by the CWA, the Crime Writers' Association, a non-profit group dedicated to the promotion of the genre and to support professional writers, and the Crime Readers' Association with the help of volunteers and in partnership with many organisations in the UK.
Back in 2011 it was just a week - and I did a number of posts on the young crime solver. In 2012 it changed to a month and I did a number of posts including a guest post from Helen Moss, and reviews. In 2013 it's six weeks and Sam Hepburn kindly opened up crime season 2013 on this blog with her post on crime thrillers.

Over the next few days I'll be focusing on crime fiction for juniors and teens with a mixture of reviews and suggestions. A couple of books I've reviewed turned out not to be quite as crime-y as I'd expected but I'll include them anyway eg Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead (October 2012, Andersen Press Ltd, ISBN: 9781849395076)

Liar & Spy is the long-awaited follow-up to When You Reach Me (which I loved). Set in present-day Brooklyn, it's about seventh-grader Georges (named after Georges Seurat) who has had to move from a house into an apartment after his dad lost his job. His mother is a nurse and works as much as she can.

Georges is bullied at school, not least because of his name; even though the 's' is silent he is often called gorgeous. The book opens with a science lesson and we hear about the taste-test that the class will have at some point - the teacher will give them a sample of a chemical which most people can taste but not all. There is an urban myth about those who cannot taste it - that they will find true love or die tragically - so there's a lot of anticipation.

In his new apartment block, Georges becomes friendly with a similarly aged boy called Safer and his younger sister Candy, and Safer and Georges form a Spy Club. Safer's demands on Georges become more and more morally questionable as they spy on the mysterious Mr X upstairs.

Initially, I though this was going to be a crime novel with the boys solving a mystery but it's not that at all. It's a snap-shot of Georges' life at a turning point - with his family circumstances drastically changed and the feared taste-test coming along; Georges has to make some decisions and take control of his life. He has been following his mum's philosophy of each short-lived moment being a small dot which makes up a whole - as in Seurat's paintings - but his dad reminds him that life is also what's happening now. Georges also has secrets, as does Safer and these are finally revealed leaving Liar & Spy ending on a much happier note than I'd been expecting. Can't wait to see what Rebecca Stead writes next.

Lira & Spy has been longlisted for the Guardian children's fiction prize 2013.