Book Review: How I Alienated My Grandma, by Suzanne Main

cv_how_i_alienated_my_grandmaMichael is home for the school holidays, and bored. His best friend and next-door neighbour Elvis lends him a metal detector to scan the backyard with. The mystery object that Michael finds sets in stream a chain of events that is both worrying and funny … because Michael inadvertently allowed an alien to possess his grandmother’s body. The alien, a location scout from a galaxy far, far way wastes no time in trying to communicate with its home planet to discuss Earth’s invasion potential. Some clever sleuthing and a few near misses mean that Michael and Elvis uncover the aliens’ plan to invade. But who will believe them, let alone know how to help?

This novel, which publishers Scholastic promote as being for 9-11 year olds (I’d give it a year extra in either direction depending on the child, especially if it’s a shared bed time story with 8-year-olds), is Suzanne Main’s first. You wouldn’t know it. The pacing is excellent, and the story moves along at a cracking speed, without compromising on characterisation or story. The humour is inter-generational; I can definitely picture a pre-teen chuckling away as Michael and Elvis try to solve the problem of Michael’s alienated grandma; and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I genuinely enjoyed reading a book specifically written for an audience 30 years my junior.

One of things I most liked about the story was that Main encourages the reader to look again. Is Michael really a bad influence, or the victim of circumstance? Is Elvis truly something of a cowardly, bumbling geek, or is he a forward thinking, practical problem-solver. And most importantly, is the local eccentric, “Mad Bill” someone to write off without a second glance because he smells bad, or is he the key to solving the riddle?

Main deservedly won the 2014 Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a previously unpublished author. I think she’s about to win a number of young fans who will appreciate a clever idea well executed, full of fun and adventure, with relatable characters and an unexpected twist at the end. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

How I Alienated My Grandma
by Suzanne Main
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433064

Book Review: Eeny Meeny, by M. J. Arlidge

Available now in bookstores nationwide. 

An established television writer in the UK with acv_eeny_meeny number of successful crime and thriller scripts under his belt, I’m surprised it’s taken Arlidge this long to be snapped up by a publisher.

For a first novel, Eeny Meeny is a remarkably assured and easy read, very much in the vein of Mo Hayder or earlier James Patterson (the good ones!) with an intriguing plot and well-rounded characters not usually found in books so easily read.

Central character DI Helen Grace kicks against the usual female detective stereotype in that she’s as complex as her case in a believable, logical way. No Hollywood hair or CSI wardrobe here. Its obvious Arlidge has spent time researching police procedure as well as the British legal system along with forensics and pathology, and it pays off with a disturbingly plausible story.

Taking the familiar concepts of innocence and guilt, right and wrong and twisting them in ways you just don’t see coming, Arlidge managed to keep me guessing almost right to the end, something that hardly EVER happens!

I read this in one sitting and have consequently been raving about it to fellow crime and thriller fans. With a gritty edge and undertone that suggests more than just a passing dalliance with the dark side, I hope to read more from this author soon. Definitely a talent to watch.

Reviewed by Sarah McMullan @sarahmcmullannz

Eeny Meeny
by M.J Arlidge
Published by Penguin,  RRP $37
ISBN 9781405914888