The word is suspense

Every Word (Every, #2)Every Word by Ellie Marney

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Watts and Mycroft are back, this time with a mystery that takes them to London, scene of Mycroft’s parents’ death in a car accident, and a case with many parallels to that incident. This mystery is more complex and sinister than the first, but still believable. Watts and Mycroft come across as such authentic people, it all makes sense. Mycroft is still trying to distance himself from Rachel, trying to protect her, but inexorably drawn to her.

Watts and Mycroft have chemistry, HOT chemistry, but it never gets in the way of the story. I admire the restraint shown by Ellie Marney in not taking things too far too early. It would be easy to do because Marney writes these scenes so well, but she holds off just long enough.

This overseas adventure leaves both Mycroft and Watts with emotional scars, to be dealt with in the next novel, Every Move. I look forward to reviewing it here soon.

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Ben’s best friend

When Friendship Followed Me HomeWhen Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you enjoyed Wonder, you will love this book too. The story of Ben, and Flip – the dog who changes his life – is endearing and memorable. Flip is a stray, taken in by Ben and his mum, Tess. Ben’s life is a bit of a roller coaster. He is smart and good at school, but is relentlessly bullied and pushed around. His way of escaping this is through books. Mrs Lorentz, the local public librarian, makes sure Ben has a plentiful supply of educational and escapist literature. It is through the library that Ben meets Halley, the girl who believes in magic. Together they train Flip to be a reading dog, to help other children read, and their bond of friendship is quick and strong.
The relationship between Ben and Halley is wonderful. It has echoes of John Green’s writing, but without the sweet sentimentality of The Fault in Our Stars. Halley is a strong, feisty and loyal friend – and Ben is fiercely protective of her. They find each others flaws and it only strengthens their friendship – with a little help from the delightful Flip.
I loved the fact that Ben’s librarian has such an enduring and positive contribution to his life, and that reading has helped Ben understand people so well. I found Ben’s Aunt Jeanie and Uncle Leo entirely believable as fumbling, unexpected guardians, and Mr and Mrs Lorentz equally as believable as warm, caring and generous carers.
Griffin also brings Flip to life so well I could actually picture him in my mind as a read. Each time I read about Flip “surfing” or high-fiving the kids at reading group I smiled because, in my mind’s eye, I could see it.
I can’t tell you any more about the plot because of spoilers, but I will say that you better have a box of tissues ready as you read this one – great sadness and great joy are contained in its pages. I would love every child over 10 to read this book – it’s just such a wonderful story, really well written. Put it on your Christmas list.
For ages 10 and up.

Everyone gets Lucky

Everybody Sees the AntsEverybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG, I loved this book. By the time I hit page 175 I was on a roll and finished the last 110 pages just minutes ago.
Lucky Linderman is a fully fleshed out, resilient, feisty funny kid. He has borne the brunt of Nader McMillan’s bullying for a long time, and everyone, including Lucky, is in denial.
His dad, Vic, doesn’t know how to be a father because his own father was MIA in 1972 in Vietnam. His Mum, Lori, swims so much (to distract herself) Lucky calls her a squid. Both parents have ignored Nader’s abuse of their son for a disgraceful number of years – until one day Nader leaves a very obvious mark and Vic and Lori’s relationship is pushed to the brink. That day, Lucky and Lori leave for a few weeks in Arizona with Lori’s brother, Dave, and Dave’s wife Jodi.
While in Arizona Lucky has vivid dreams where he speaks to his MIA grandfather, and attempts to rescue him and bring him home. At the same time, mentally unstable Jodi prods and pokes Lucky with questions and accusations, attempting to slot him into some sort of “troubled youth” box. Uncle Dave appears to be the Dad Lucky has craved – until he learns a secret about him that changes his perception. Bit by bit, Lucky starts to confront the awful parts of his life and along the way we see his fantastic dry sense of humour, and also feel his pain. Meeting Ginny, a girl he sees at church with his aunt and uncle, is a turning point for Lucky. She is someone whose life has some parallels with his. Both of them are allowing other people to determine their destiny. Ginny has a plan to change that – and Lucky becomes part of the support network that allows her to do so.
Some of this book is confronting – especially for anyone who hasn’t been bullied before. For those of us who have, we recognise ourselves in Lucky and we are absolutely rooting for him all the way as he takes his life back and gives himself control over what happens to him.
Suitable for ages 14 and up

Lies, damned lies, and half-truths

Mayan Mendacity (Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth #2)Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I started this book with some trepidation. I had read Olmec Obituary and not enjoyed it as much as I hoped I would. Whilst I had been a fan of the story itself (mostly), Elizabeth Pimms was not my favourite protagonist. I am happy to report she started to grow on me a bit in this next novel. Elizabeth is dumped by her feckless boyfriend, Luke, in the opening chapters of the novel, but only after he has informed her he has arranged for her to analyse remains found in a Mayan city. She is devastated, but the readers know she has totally dodged a bullet. Luckily, she now has the remains to focus on, and focus she does. There is also the question of the antagonistic Mai, who we learn could be Lizzie’s half sister. Through her friend Alice, Elizabeth arranges DNA testing – which provides a nice stream of tension throughout the story.
I found the archaeological story in this novel much more interesting than the first – the story of Lady Six Sky was fascinating, and quite riveting. She was certainly a woman to be reckoned with, and not one to cross. I appreciated this part of Owen’s storytelling much more this time around and I enjoyed the writing very much. However, I still struggled to feel engaged by Dr Elizabeth Pimms. The bit-players were the ones I found more interesting. Her sister Sam, driven like Elizabeth, but a little more emotionally intelligent; the increasingly gorgeous workmate Nathan – always there being supportive and nurturing; Alice – the grad student who knows her way around genetic material; Matty -the disabled brother who just wants to look after his big sister. Those characters felt more believable to me, more accessible. Again, it is about little things with Elizabeth. This time she was more or less okay until almost the end of the book; when she gives her family a new games chest – containing classic board games such as Cluedo and Monopoly. Elizabeth has a crisis over giving her family a game of Monopoly:

“Elizabeth had felt uneasy about replacing their Monopoly set, given that its female inventor and patentee Elizabeth Magie had been well and truly Franklined out of her rightful rewards by the patriarchy. The idea that Elizabeth was lining the pockets of the corporation that man-washed Magie from the pages of her own history troubled Elizabeth’s conscience. Nonetheless, the boardgame was a staple of family gatherings, and Elizabeth had been able to use it as originally intended by its creator – to strike up conversations examining the horrors of unrestrained capitalism”

WHAT? Up until this moment, on page 328 no less, we have had no indication of Elizabeth’s rancour against “the patriarchy” and frankly I understood Sam’s frustration with Elizabeth if she used a game of Monopoly to have a conversation about the “horrors of capitalism”. Seriously – the whole tone of the novel changed to preachy and it rankled.
Also, the term “phrenic library” still does not appear in the glossary in the back of the book, which I feel is a major oversight. And, on the subject of that very library, if this library exists in Elizabeth’s subconscious, but under her control as we are led to believe, how the hell does a STRANGER appear in it?
The third novel, Alexandrian Athenaeum, had better have some pretty convincing explanations for that, because if it doesn’t I’m not sure I can go on following Pimms’ adventures. They will just be too far-fetched all together.
Suitable for ages 15 and up.