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Suspenseful YA spy thriller that throngs with gaming, guts and deadly risks. Teenager Jack is up to his neck in trouble. His brother is about to be imprisoned for a crime Jack plotted and, on top of that, a secret agency is using this intelligence to force him to join them. Jack’s mission? To infiltrate the manufacturer of a hot new game to discover what’s really going on there. Caught between more than a few rocks and hard places, Jack is forced to make a near impossible decision. While the premise is strong and the story packed with action, the tendency to over-wordiness and repetitive descriptions slow down the plot in places. Having said that, there’s enough pace-turning peril to recommend it to fans of Alex Rider and Young Bond. Joanne Owen
October 2018 Book of the Month | One of our 2018 Books of the Year | The Timmy Failure books are works of absolute comic genius and Stephan Pastis succeeds with each new story in making the adventures of Timmy and his sidekick Total the polar bear funnier, even more satisfying, and still more poignant; never more so than this the last in the series. Timmy has decided to retire from detective work but has a new project: he’s writing the script for his form’s Christmas film show, and has decided it will chronicle his own greatness. Meanwhile he is also negotiating a new relationship with his dad, now permanently on the scene, and helping reunite Total with his long lost polar bear family. The gap between what’s real and what’s real in Timmy’s imagination has never been more acute, or more affecting. The story will have readers crying with laughter, while the ending may well bring tears of a different kind. Totally great.
Best-selling Goth Girl is back for an action-packed new adventure in this stunningly produced volume by former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell which has the additional delight of a mini-book, Fable of a Faun, tucked into it. Lord Goth is turning Ghastly-Gorm Hall into the venue for Gothstock, a sensational music festival that will match his home. Naturally, Ada Goth is thrilled at the thought but will it all go to plan? In both words and pictures Chris Riddell creates an amazing cast of characters and the most original escapades in which they are all entangled.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2018 | With a tremendous cast, a great plot and setting and a catchy style this fast-paced espionage story is a book that is impossible to put down. Sophie Taylor and Lilian Rose, two girls who are very different in all ways except that they both clever and brave, find their detective work leads them to working with the Secret Service Bureau. It is 1911and the girls set off on a mission to Paris. Following the twists and turns of their undercover activity is a delight – as is Katherine Woodfine’s re-creation of Paris. Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for August 2018 Once Upon A Wild Wood by Chris Riddell Oscar and the CATastrophe by Sarah Horne Run Wild by Gill Lewis Peril in Paris (Taylor & Rose: Secret Agents) by Katherine Woodfine The Garden of Hope by Isabel Otter
One of our 2018 Books of the Year | August 2018 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: classic time-slip adventure with some contemporary twists | Sally Nicholls is adept at balancing excitement with humour, creating original page-turning stories that are rich with insight. Well-versed in time travel plots Alex and Ruby quickly guess what’s happened when they fall through an old mirror into 1912. They make friends with the children of the house, Dora and Henry (one of whom could be a great-grandparent) before being caught up in adventure: someone has stolen a valuable antique cup from charming Uncle Atherton, on the eve of his wedding too. High drama ensues including a race after the thieves in a vintage car. It’s a thoroughly satisfying adventure, with a proper sense of what the past would actually be like (much grubbier and smellier than Alex and Ruby expect), and tinged with real sadness too: the children are all too aware of what is in Henry and Ruby’s future. ~ Andrea Reece For more engaging and surprising time-travel adventure try Evie’s Ghost by Helen Peters. The Editor at Nosy Crow says: “A fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable adventure from the always-entertaining Sally Nicholls. I couldn’t stop reading it!”
Award-winning duo Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks have created a brilliant new adventure for the clever Ladybird, star of What the Ladybird Heard. The Ladybird’s old adversaries, Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh, are planning another dastardly crime. This time they are after the Queen’s crown and to get it they plan first to steal a monkey from the zoo. Can the Ladybird, who happens to be on holiday in the same place, stop them? Clever Ladybird comes up with a brilliant plan and, helped by some very noisy Zoo animals, she once again saves the day. Gloriously glittery pages add a sparkle to this delightful and witty story with includes a CD of the story read by Alexander Armstrong.
UKLA Longlist Book Awards - 2019 | July 2018 Book of the Month | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | Shortlisted for the Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award 2018 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2017 | | A book to break your heart, quicken your blood and stir your soul by one of the most outstandingly distinctive writers to have emerged in a long, long time. New Yorker Joe Moon was only seven when he took the call in which his big brother Ed told him he'd been arrested because “they think I done something real bad”. That “something” led to Ed winding up on death row, convicted of murdering a cop, though he insists he’s innocent. Ten years later, now Ed’s execution date has been set, Joe travels to Texas to say goodbye. The sublimely-formed structure slips between present and past, recounting the brothers’ troubled upbringing - how their Mom took off; how Aunt Karen took control and decided that Bible study and never mentioning Ed again was the only route to their salvation. While she insists that there’s no point wasting life or money helping someone who wasn’t sorry, Joe sees things differently. “He's my brother,” and that’s really all that matters. He has to see him. Lawyer Al, who’s taken on Ed’s case for free, offers some hope, but time is running out. “It's better to be guilty and rich, I reckon,” Joe remarks, as he experiences the excruciating injustices of a legal system in which the harshness of a sentence depends on where a crime takes place, who the victim was, and who you can afford to pay to represent you (crucially, Ed had no representation when he was first arrested). Once again, Crossan's free verse form is breathtakingly powerful - always the right word, in the right place, at the right time. Yes, this is harrowing and heartbreaking, but the kindness of the strangers Joe meets in Texas is achingly uplifting, as is the deep bond of love between Joe and Ed. This really is a magnificent feat of writing.
Good news for anyone who likes exciting mystery stories starring children: the Secret Seven are back in new adventures specially written by Pamela Butchart. Older fans of the series (hands up if you had your own Secret Seven inspired club as a kid – I did) will be reassured to know that the essence of the series is unchanged – the gang are as jolly and go-getting as ever, clearly smarter than the adults they encounter, and the (many) descriptions of tea-time feasts are simply delicious. This episode concerns strange goings-on in the grounds of a hotel – why are the new owners digging such a big hole in the garden, could it be something to do with buried treasures? Pamela Butchart understands as well as Enid Blyton how to write page-turning adventure, and just what young readers want in their fictional heroes. Hoorah for the new Secret Seven!
One of our 2018 Books of the Year | July 2018 Debut of the Month |Historian Janina Ramirez’s TV programmes are as inspiring as they are informative. Her passion for Viking history comes through loud and clear in this story for young readers, which is also inspiring, and a great crime mystery too. Young Alva lives with her mother, uncle, baby brother and pet wolf Fenrir in the Viking settlement Kilsgard. Her father is away ‘a-Viking’ and much missed. The peace of their community is disturbed by the arrival of an English monk. He says he’s on the trail of treasure – certain to catch Viking attention – but has been attacked, a companion kidnapped. Alva is determined to investigate and soon on the trail, at first independently, then as semi-official assistant to her investigator uncle. The mystery comes closer to home still when the two discover secret messages from Alva’s father amongst the clues. Readers will pick up a real sense of Viking life as they compulsively turn the pages of this gripping adventure and Alva is a great new character in children’s books. Readers who can’t wait for the next book in the series will enjoy Caroline Lawrence’s historical crime series The Pinkerton Mysteries or the Artie Conan Doyle series by Robert J. Harris.
The resurgence in crime stories for young readers, led so stylishly by Lauren Child (Ruby Redfort), Lauren St John (Kat Wolfe Investigates) and Robin Stevens (Murder Most Unladylike) continues and readers will find their interest piqued and their brain cells given a good workout by this new detective series. Agatha (after Christie) Oddly has a nose for mystery. Just as well – a hit and run in Hyde Park where she lives with her park keeper dad, leads her into some very strange and really rather dangerous goings on, involving an attempt to destroy the city of London and a very secret, secret society. Added treats for readers include Agatha’s quirky best friend Liam and her rivalry with a bunch of snobby girls at her posh school (she’s on a scholarship).
June 2018 Book of the Month | Wonderfully chilling, this is another thrilling treat from E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars. Two girls, in an intense relationship are both looking for escape but at what cost? When one disappears events suddenly become darker and we fall into a world of murder, fraud and villainy as identities are blurred and friendships crossed. There's a fine line between superhero and supervillain when someone needs to save herself. Lockhart's writing is edgy, fast paced and keeps you guessing until the end. Creepy, provocative and daring the protagonists (Jule and Imogen) continually leave you with a sense of unease as they draw you in not knowing what to believe and where the novel will take you next. We're looking in from the outside but Lockhart only lets you see what she wants you to before shocking you over and over with the sudden twists in events. Brilliant as always, E. Lockhart continues to enthrall with this, her latest thought provoking novel. ~ Shelley Fallows - You can also find Shelley here.