Every Breath by Ellie Marney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had Every Breath on my to-read list for a long time, and after meeting Ellie Marney at the Reading Matters conference I made the decision to READ it. I am so glad I did. It is a great mystery novel with a nice raw edge to it. Set in Melbourne, this mystery follows neighbours (Rachel) Watts and (James) Mycroft in their investigation of the death of a homeless friend, Dave. The police investigation, headed by Detective Pickup (great name), is looking at the death as a “sport” killing of opportunity. Mycroft and Watts think there is more to it, and so begins the fast-moving story of their own investigations into the killing.
Watts is a girl who is still trying to find her feet after moving to the city from the country, still trying to find her space and where she fits in to the rapid pace of her new home. Mycroft is a guy who thrives on city life, has a chequered past and seems to teeter on a knife edge most of the time. The way Marney builds the relationship between these two is fabulous, not going too over the top and highlighting their strong friendship before exploring anything more between them.
No words are wasted in this novel, not by the characters and not by Ellie Marney. Her language is precise and effective at every turn. The minute I read the word “cogitating” in the novel I knew Marney was a quality writer. It seems small, I know, but many writers would use this word when it did not apply or add anything to the story. When used to describe Mycroft thinking, it totally nailed it for me. I could absolutely picture him in my mind, cogitating.
Watts starts this story as an angry young woman – who is finding it very difficult to cope with her family and her sense of displacement. She and Mycroft are like opposite sides of a coin, joined together along the edges. Their fates are tied together for better or worse. Mycroft is a wonderful character – at once charming and infuriating and a little scary. We discover his parent’s death in a carjacking has made his behaviour erratic and he has been a patient in a mental hospital. He is struggling as much as Watts. They are both displaced in some way. Through his friendship with Watts, Mycroft learns he can rely on people other than himself, without sacrificing who he is.
The supporting characters are great too. Mai is my favourite, the legal studies student with all the answers when it comes to police procedure, she is cute and quirky and I hope she features in the next book too.
There are a number of fantastic set pieces throughout the novel, including a breathtaking scaffold climb that jangled the nerves of this acrophobe! As the clues fall into place, Watts and Mycroft race off to find the last piece of the puzzle, and walk into a life-threatening situation.
The scenes where Mycroft and Watts confront the murderer and are placed in mortal peril (can’t tell you what, exactly – spoiler, but WOW!) are really tense, and tautly written too. Once I started this I couldn’t put it down. Can’t wait now to read Every Word.
Recommended for ages 13 and up.
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was very excited to see this book arrive in my library. Anything new from Neil Gaiman is always cause for celebration, but THIS is fabulous. Chris Riddell’s illustrations are exquisite and totally support his appointment as the new Children’s Laureate. The detail is wonderful, with just enough touches of gold to make it perfect.
So, the story. Snow White, on the eve of her wedding to her Prince, decides to take three of the dwarfs on a quest to rescue the neighbouring kingdom – which is suffering a sleep plague. She dons her knightly apparel and rides off, waving goodbye to her crying fiance.
This is a Snow White with no fear. She does not fear a sleep curse because she has already survived one. She is strong, capable and confident – quite the opposite of the usual fair tale princess, but then this is no ordinary fairy tale. After many days of journeying, Snow White reaches the palace of the sleeping princess. She slices through thorny bushes, hung with the skeletal remains of the princes and nobles who have trodden the path before her. She reaches the chamber of the princess, where she sees a gloriously beautiful blond young woman asleep and a gnarled old woman guarding her. And then there is a twist, and another, and another. As usual, no spoilers, but I can tell you I was able to write a great essay about it all for my Uni course! Feminist ideology is definitely in play here. This is a story about women finding their places in the world, and asserting their right to determine their own path. A story about the old guard versus the new guard – with amazing illustrations.
Recommended for anyone 12 and up. Thank you Neil Gaiman.
The First Third by Will Kostakis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a book you just want to hug after you finish it. Will Kostakis has written an absolute gem that beautifully paints a picture of a family in crisis with underlying warmth and humour. Yiayia reminded me of my own departed Nana (gone 6 years now) and how she commanded the room, even when she was not well. I could imagine her issuing orders and writing bucket lists as Bill’s yiayia did.
Yiayia is in hospital after a fall and she gives Bill (via a very pretty girl) her bucket list:
1. Find your mummy husband
2. Have Simon girlfriend in Sydney
3. Fix Peter
To tell you what all this means and if Bill does them all would constitute a massive spoiler, so I won’t tell you. What I will tell you is his attempts make a fabulous ride that I was kind of sad had to end.
Bill is an endearing and sympathetic protagonist – a teenager trying to find his way in the world of relationships, both romantically and within his family unit. The journey Kostakis takes us on is filled with interesting and entertaining characters along the way too. Sticks is one of the best, best friends I have read in recent YA fiction. He is smart, funny, knows who he is and is a rock for Bill in a stormy family time.
If you are looking for an entertaining read, that doesn’t constantly hit you over the head with “messages”. With no swearing or ridiculous sex scenes, and with a gentle, self-deprecating humour and a feel good ending that makes you want to punch the air and say YEAH! Then this book, my friend, is for YOU.
Recommended for ages 12 and up. Wonderful.
Can’t wait to read Will’s next book, The Sidekicks, in 2016!