The Outsider

The OutsiderThe Outsider by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I expected more scares that I got, but somehow it didn’t matter because Mr King is such a great writer of character I was completely engrossed. There is horror – the book begins with an absolutely HORRIFIC crime – but the reader quickly becomes connected to the characters, and I found myself very quickly caring about what happened to them all. I had not read the other Bill Hodges books, but I would go back to them on the strength of this novel, and he’s not even really in this one!
Holly, Hodge’s former investigative partner, is a brilliant character. I would have read this for her alone. I won’t give away too much here, because I try to be spoiler-free, but I did love the weaving of urban and ancient mythology into the storyline.
If you want a plot that slowly draws you in and then doesn’t let go, this is the book for you. One to curl up with on a rainy day (or couple of days – it’s a pretty long read) and immerse yourself in.
Recommended for ages 16 and up (there is some pretty graphic content in here).


Aces High

All Aces (Circus Hearts, #3)All Aces by Ellie Marney

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my favourite in the Circus Hearts series so far. Contortionist Ren and card-sharp Zep are a great combination. Both trapped in some way by family ties, looking to make their own way, on their terms, in a hostile world that seems to put obstacles up at every turn. Zep is smart, sexy, sensitive, and – despite having the despicable Angus Deal for a father – a straight shooter. Ren is struggling to prove to her family that circus life is what she wants and is a worthwhile career option. She is also recovering from severe smoke inhalation from a fire; a fire Zep Deal saved her from.
Zep and Ren develop an unstoppable attraction and along the way they put themselves in danger to make sure Angus and the saboteurs from the past two novels, go to prison for a long time.
The beautiful, vulnerable, but resilient Ren and the savvy, handsome, and protective Zep are the best romance in this series yet.
More please!

“To be heard”

Catching Teller CrowCatching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This glorious book. This lyrical, mystical, earthy book. I loved it. Ambelin and Ezekial Kwamullina have woven together two different narrative perspectives and made them seamless. Beth Teller, a ghost, is tethered to her grieving father after being taken too soon in a car accident. Her father, a police detective, has been sent to a town to investigate a suspicious fire and death. In the course of the investigation Beth and her Dad meet Isobel Catching, thought to be a witness to the fire. Catching, the second narrator, tells her story in a verse novel style and hers is a strange and compelling tale. As we read these stories side-by-side, we start to see connections in them. Other people in the town go missing, Beth’s Dad starts digging into the town’s past, and unravels a mystery that spans twenty years.
The imagery used in Catching’s story, with connections to animals and the landscape, along with Beth’s emotional attachment to her father, and a growing attachment to Catching, move this story along at a deceptive pace. This is an easy read, but the themes are raw and real and definitely not for a junior audience. I would suggest ages 13 and up would be the way to go here.
Highly recommended reading.

A Great Find

FoundFound by Fleur Ferris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beth (Elizabeth) Miller lives in a small town, Deni, and has just started a relationship with local boy, Jonah. When we first meet them, Beth is trying to work up the courage to tell her father, “Bear” – a local teacher and karate instructor – about her boyfriend. Beth’s Dad disappears after the appearance of a nondescript white van and from that moment on, her entire life is turned upside down and inside out. Everything Beth thought she could be sure of in her life becomes shaky as she discovers her family has been in hiding from a dangerous, vengeful criminal who has now found out where they live.
I love how Fleur Ferris throws the reader immediately into the middle of the action in this novel. We have barely met Beth and Jonah when things begin to go pear-shaped, and the pace does not let up for the rest of the 300 pages. Beth turns out to be a highly capable and resourceful girl, because her parents have always been secretly preparing in case they were found out; but she is also incredibly fragile, trying to make sense of everything that is going on AND trying to keep herself and her family alive.
Jonah is interesting too – especially because he learns things about his own behaviour (he’s a bit of a selfish prick for a while), and he has great mates like the fantastic Warra to help pull him back into line. Willow, Beth’s best friend, is also well-drawn and the conversation between the two girls feels natural and easy.
I won’t give any more plot points away, but I CAN say that just when you think you know everything, there is another surprise or shock over the next page!
Fleur has found her stride here – a great mix of excellent scene-setting, and well-paced action – and has cemented her place as a premium writer of YA thrillers.
Highly recommended.

Gripping debut novel

All I Ever WantedAll I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mim is almost seventeen. She lives with her mother in a suburb that is harsh, gritty and makes her feel trapped. She has set herself rules to live by – in the hope that she will one day escape. Only one problem. She’s starting to break her rules.

Nine days from her seventeenth birthday, Mim’s life takes a turn she didn’t expect. She is breaking lots of her rules, not just one or two, and it is looking like she will be stuck in her dead-end suburb, turning out exactly like her drug-dealing mother. In Mim’s eyes that is a fate worse than death. As she struggles to escape an out-of-control situation, Mim begins to realise that maybe she belongs in her home town more than she realises. That those people – her Mum and all the rest of them, are HER people. This debut novel from Vicki Wakefield is a gripping read about identity, belonging and finding your place in the world.
For ages 14 and up.

Friday Brown….. God! I wish I could write like this!

Friday BrownFriday Brown by Vikki Wakefield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Friday Brown believes she is cursed. All the women who have died in her family have done so around or in water. Even her own mother died of pneumonia – her lungs drowned. At seventeen, she is cast out by her grandfather because she reminds him too much of his lost daughter. Friday is on her own on the streets.

She befriends a boy named Silence. He’s strange…with a troubled past he doesn’t
talk about. Silence lives with a group of squatters headed up by the charismatic, but cruel, Arden. They survive by petty crime, and their wits most of the time, with Arden running the show.

Friday resolves to leave and take Silence with her, but her money has been stolen and she is inextricably drawn to Arden in way she doesn’t really understand. When the cops start sniffing around the squat, Arden packs up the crew and they flee to the bush, where Friday feels more at those than the rest of the group. Arden feels threatened by this and applies pressure to Friday with physical violence. After a rain storm, the dried creek bed they have been camping in begins to flood and Friday and the rest must again flee. In all the confusing Silence disappears and things take a dark and tragic turn. Friday finds herself taking a stand – for herself, for her forebears and for Silence. She challenges her fate, and realises that love might just save her.

This book has unforgettable characters. While I found Friday to be sympathetic as a protagonist, the one I really connected with was Silence. Damaged by his past, he just wants to be loved and to feel safe. Arden is a deftly painted villain, as vile as any I have read.

Wakefield’s writing is superb. Economical, but lyrical, and full of wonderful imagery. The twists and turns of the plot are completely believable and the turning point of the novel was a complete punch in the guts, but achingly beautiful too.

An utter triumph. I am in awe of Vikki Wakefield and her amazing talent.