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Who needs gritty, dark psychological thriller when you can curl up in your armchair with your furry companions and read a cosy murder mystery especially one where a feisty Scottish wildcat pits his superior feline wits against a delightfully wicked murderer in the rugged heart of the Scottish Highlands?
The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones was one of my favourite books of 2016, and it’s great to see Mabel back. She’s forced to leave the ‘hooman’ world and venture again into the Noo World, a place run by animals, variously disreputable or downright nefarious. Mabel’s baby sister has been abducted and before you can say Omynus Hussh (pirate slow loris and Mabel’s arch enemy) she’s on her trail aboard a steam boat, cutlass in hand ready for more narrow escapes from certain death. It’s wildly inventive, Mabbit delights as much in fantastical word-play as he does in the kind of gross humour kids love, and a rip-roaring adventure too. Ross Collins was born to illustrate this and his drawings are an integral part of the enjoyment. This matches Lemony Snicket for dark humour, while fans will also enjoy Dominic Barker’s equally clever and engaging Blart The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Save the World. ~ Andrea Reece
This is a No. 1 New York Times Bestseller that we’ve been raving about since it went stratospheric across the pond earlier this year. Here you will meet four very unusual children each with three things in common – all orphans, all incredibly talented and all utterly and completely honest. Akin to Lemony Snicket but in our view loads better, readers are plunged head-first into a world of puzzles and logic, testing their ingenuity and cunning as well as that of the four children. It’s fast-paced, brilliantly plotted and the characters are incredibly endearing in their individual ways. Don’t let any 9+ year old miss this one. It’s an absolute gem.
Full of drama, this is a fast moving crime thriller of football, corruption and clever detective work. Danny Harte is a passionate City FC football fan. He is also a very keen detective. With rumours flying around that City FC is up for sale, Danny sets about trying to find out what is going on. His sleuthing leads him to find Kofi, a young player from Ghana who has been duped by a crooked agent. Helped by a local journalist, Danny sets about setting things right but, in doing so, he finds himself in the greatest danger!
Nobody visits Eerie-on-Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous Malamander creep... Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy - especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl. No one knows what happened to Violet Parma's parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance might have something to do with the legendary sea-monster, the Malamander. Eerie-on-Sea has always been a mysteriously chilling place, where strange stories seem to wash up. And it just got stranger...
Dan talks to the undead dead - and helps solve their problems. But when he takes on the case of a teenage shoplifter, things spin out of control. You'll find there are some great characters you'll warm to - even the undead ones - and there's plenty of humour and adventure rolled into the story. Thomas Taylor has also just written Haunters, a supernatural thriller featuring three boys with special powers. This one is more suitable for 11+ readers. Thomas Taylor's claim to fame prior to writing both these exceptionally good novels is that he is also the illustrator of the original Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. How cool is that! Dan and the Dead is part of a series of Brilliant, fast-paced stories from publisher Bloomsbury with compelling plots, non-stop adventure and tons of style, at a manageable length. Perfect for newly confident readers, as well as keen readers who need to fit books in between the other demands on their attention!
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 7 Against the dramatic background of a violent storm, this story within a story simply but elegantly unfolds in carefully chosen vocabulary. As the old man at the bar tells his favourite tale of the traveller, whose fury at all he heard about the Kingdom to the West caused him to sally forth into a wild night in which he must surely have perished, another unknown traveller arrives. Who is the young man and what is his business? How the two stories are interwoven gives the story the timeless and soothing feel of a traditional story.
A gripping murder mystery with a fast moving plot that twists and turns as one gruesome event follows another. Poppy is off to a remote Scottish island to take part in a free action-packed adventure holiday. But right from the first there are some odd and scary things going on. Can Poppy keep her nerve and can she uncover the mysteries that are going on behind the scenes? Tanya is the author of a number of novels for slightly older readers and this title is the first in a proposed mystery series. It’s spot on.
In a Nutshell: Boudica-spirited slave girl fights to break the chains that bind her | A sumptuous feast of historical fiction fuelled by drama, deception, and a young woman’s determination to find freedom. To be born a slave in Roman Britain is to lead a life of subjugation, and female infants are often killed at birth. But while Cassia is born into this brutal system, she’s also supremely strong, so her master deems her worth keeping, and marks her as a “concubine. A mistress. A whore.” When brought to his villa to fulfill this role, she’s filled with disgust; first at the opulence, which represents the suffering and violence done to her fellow slaves, and then by his touch. And so she attacks and maims him, and must go on the run. Alone and vulnerable in unfamiliar Londinium, Cassie is aided by Marcus. He finds her work with a renowned pharmacist but she still feels trapped, and so resolves to find a way to the haven that lies beyond Hadrian’s Wall. But she’s not sure whether she can really trust Marcus, her master is hot on her heels, and her reputation as a “witch” and “creature of legend” is mounting… The writing is crisply vivid, and packs a powerful visual punch, and I loved how Boudica’s spirit of resistance and rebellion permeated the book through Cassia’s indomitable strength. She’s an extraordinarily memorable heroine, and this is an extraordinary novel - historical YA at its best, no less. ~ Joanne Owen
May 2018 Debut of the Month | | An unflinching novel about brutally toxic masculinity, male collusion and how justice systems and society at large are still appallingly rigged against women. Life is tough for Ellie and her dad in their decrepit ghost town. Ellie’s mom ran out on them when she was still a baby, she’s cripplingly lonely and her dad never fulfilled his dream of becoming a filmmaker. Convinced – and told by her peers - that she’s ugly, Ellie’s dream is “to be pretty. That’s part of what makes a girl,” she remarks. “Girls who are pretty are likeable. Pretty is power.” So when privileged Caleb tells her she’s pretty, she craves him, even though she also “hated how he made me feel uncomfortable”. His attention legitimises and comforts her, even when he dumps her, even when he’s humiliates her. And then it’s too late. He and his family are monstrous, and Ellie can’t escape. The brotherhood of abuse portrayed here will sicken and shock, while your heart will ache for Ellie, for her dad, and for the love and friendships she deserved to enjoy. Relentlessly raw and unusually framed, this is perhaps best recommended for fans of crime fiction with conscience. Bold in its bleakness, this steers well clear of any kind of happy-ever-after Hollywood ending. In real life baddies don’t always get what they had coming. In real life not everyone has a best friend to turn to. On a positive note, this might just enrage to the point of inspiring readers to take a stand on issues of systemic misogyny, and it makes a strong case for the need to take time to truly get to know people, to find friends you can open up to.
With a Nancy Drew Mysteries meets Carrie Bradshaw in the afterlife feel, this is the first in a funny, wise-cracking series featuring four teenage girl detectives - who are dead!Charlotte is the newest on the team, after she is squished under a subway train, and before she can move on she has to solve her own murder - and find out if it is possible to continue having a boyfriend who is alive.Perfect for fans of Meg Cabot and Ally Carter and no ‘Charlie’s Angels’ jokes.
What a luminously life-enhancing read this is. The story of ADHD afflicted underdog Felix, who “can’t concentrate or keep still”. His East German Granddad now (embarrassingly) drives the pink car that used to belong to his deceased Grandma, whose death has hit them all hard. Felix and Granddad’s grief is laid bare with heart-wrenching authenticity, but theirs is a complex relationship: “I love my granddad and I think he loves me, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.” After an altercation, Felix and Granddad forge an understanding, and look forward to a “neuangfang” (new start) that begins with a list of “Ten things I’d like to teach Felix”. Unfortunately, in Felix’s eyes Granddad’s list comprises the “ten more boring things in the world”, but Felix works through it until only the most dreaded activity remains - playing chess. He tries to wriggle out of it, but “crafty” Granddad has been surreptitiously teaching Felix chess skills and he’s soon hooked by the game, with unexpected positive side effects. A thrilling team tournament is followed waves of pulse-quickening twists that will thrust readers to the edge of their seats, heart in mouth. Throughout, the rollercoaster ride of primary school life - fallings out, friendship, fear of not fitting in - is explored in all its intense and comic complexity, and the representation of working class realisms is spot-on too. Felix’s mum and dad have both been “working stacks since Dad’s plumbing business went bust last year”. But, best of all, the magic of the relationship between children and their grandparents is dazzlingly conjured. I adored it.
‘To the best of my knowledge’, announces Timmy Failure at the start of this book, in a chapter called Let’s Do the Timmy Warp Again, ‘everyone on earth has now read the prior three volumes about my life.’ That’s one of the things about Timmy: he’s very confident. He certainly believes he’s a clever detective and, with his associate Total the polar bear, sets out to solve a case of missing money in this new adventure. Timmy’s sleuthing, and views on the world around him, are as funny as ever. Stephan Pastis’s stories are full of quirky humour and Timmy is an irresistible central character. There’s stuff going on with his long-suffering mum in this story too, and their relationship is another one of the pleasures of the books. ~ Andrea Reece One of our Books of the Year 2015