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One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | September 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Stellar story of survival in outer space A uniquely thought-provoking, space-set page-turner with an unforgettable main character whose strength and resolve will leave readers reeling in admiration. Romy is alone in space, decades from Earth. She’s the sole survivor aboard The Infinity, a spacecraft whose crew had been tasked with the mission of establishing “the new home of humanity on Earth II”. After losing her parents at the age of eleven, she’s had to come to terms with being entirely alone. “I just got on with it”, she states, revealing her characteristic, awe-inspiring strength. Then news comes from NASA that another ship has launched and the programme will be pushed forward by over twenty years. Romy is ecstatic that she’ll have company again. This is intensified when she and J, the young Commander of the new ship, start communicating and strike up a close bond, as troubling news comes from Earth. Romy’s experience of falling for J is dazzlingly evoked - every skip of her heart, every frisson of passion - as she imagines them as the Adam and Eve of Earth II. The novel’s darker strands are powerfully done too. Romy is haunted by the traumatic events that forced her into solitude, then there’s the succession of shocking revelations that explode when she begins to question J. To say the twists are unexpected is an understatement. This is one of those rare reads that defies classification. Smart sci-fi; gripping thriller; coming-of-age epic - it’s all this and more. ~ Joanne Owen
He wasn't an alien, I was sure of that. It was more like he'd walked in through an ancient door from the past ... except he was here, in my bedroom and his misty forest was somewhere real on Planet Earth. Twelve-year-old Kofi first spots the prehistoric human on a supermarket roundabout. He is small and dark and curled into a tight ball. His name is Rorty Thrutch and he has zero memory of how he ended up in the unexceptional village of Bradborough, or why he's being hunted... Kofi soon finds out that Rorty can do amazing things. He can copy, paste and delete objects, using only the power of his mind. This is the discovery of the century and mad, greedy scientists will stop at nothing to track him down. Kofi and best friend Janie are on a mission. Not only must they protect Rorty, but they have to find his missing girlfriend Pogsy Blue, too. Our prehistoric ancestors have crashed headlong into the 21st century and time is running out to save them... The Starman and Me explores where we have come from and where we are moving to - it's about the magic of DNA, the power of identity, and the importance of caring for each other.
July 2017 Book of the Month In a Nutshell: Lord of the Flies with added asteroid action A uniquely-premised psychological page-turner packed with darkness, death, and compelling conspiracy. Since the age of eight, Min has experienced the unthinkable. On each even-numbered birthday, she’s violently murdered by a strange man. The first time it happened, she arrived home just a few hours after the event, with all evidence of the murder erased. After the second time, she was diagnosed with a dissociative disorder and has been on medication ever since. Then there’s Noah, the popular, handsome son of the richest man in town. But, beneath his perfect façade, Noah struggles with deep-rooted self-doubt caused by his father’s lifelong deprecations, and with unbearably violent nightmares. As the two teenagers try to deal with their inner demons, an external demon looks set to hit the world – quite literally - in the form of a giant asteroid. While the population waits to discover whether The Anvil is going to strike Planet Earth, Min uncovers a web of lies in which both she and Noah are entangled. Crisscrossing genres (crime, sci-fi, psychological thriller) with dynamism and panache, this ambitious book – the first in a series – tingles with twists, suspense and originality. ~ Joanne Owen
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award In a nutshell: dazzling journeys into other worlds | Philip Reeve continues to turn us all into railheads in his glorious new sci-fi adventure. The follow up to Railhead, this is set in a gleaming future world where trains, great, beautiful sentient machines, travel from one world to the next. It’s a thrilling adventure and political thriller too, with a cast of young exiles, outsiders and rebels – petty thief Zen Starling, his friend the android Nova, ousted empress Threnody and the tough, disillusioned Chandni. Romance is never far away either, not least the romance of travelling on beyond the sunset. Full of scenes and images that bring you up short, and driven by an unstoppable plotline, this is epic, dazzling stuff. You could point readers who enjoy this towards H G Wells or Ray Bradbury. ~ Andrea Reece
This feverishly fast-paced apocalyptic thriller, sequel to Remade, packs a seriously strong pathological punch. It’s eighteen months on from the horrific events recounted in Remade (“People dying in the goddamm street”, flesh coming away from their bones “like casserole beef from a T-bone”) and it looks like the devastating virus has been killed off. A further lifeline is thrown when Leon and Freya, “a pair of lonely scavengers”, see a message bearing news that civilian and naval vessels are waiting for survivors in Southampton, with medical and emergency supplies aboard. While “glass-half-empty type” Leon reckons that this rescue ship news might be old, “always upbeat, always optimistic” Freya thinks it’s worth investigating. But it’s not long before their worst nightmare re-rears its unimaginably ugly head…The virus is back, reborn in an evolved state with even greater powers of intelligence. The fight is on, and the stakes could not be higher. Ideal for fans of Darren Shan’s Zom-B books, and shows like The Walking Dead, this pithy page-turner is sure to set readers’ heart a-pounding and brains a-boggling. It’s tense, taut and tantalisingly twisty throughout, and the action couldn’t be more in-your-face-thrilling. ~ Joanne Owen
June 2017 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: rollicking, thought-provoking dystopian adventure | As the TV series of The Handmaid’s Tale sets everyone thinking, publication of Who Runs the World? seems very timely. It imagines a very different dystopian future to Attwood’s, one in which women are in charge. A generation after a deadly virus wiped out all the men, lead character River has grown up in an all-female world, looked after by a community of ‘mummas’ and ‘granmummas’. The general peace and harmony of their lives is shockingly disturbed when River finds a teenage boy, sick but alive. The book examines not just our attitudes to gender but poses wider questions about politics, power and the way we operate as a society. Bergin keeps the tension high throughout, the action unfolding at almost breathless speed, but still manages to intersperse humour and moments of tenderness. Read it and think! ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: thoroughly charming and original fantasy adventure Joan Lennon’s new fantasy adventure is hugely entertaining, with a vividly described other/future world, and as unusual and appealing band of unlikely heroes as you could hope to meet. When they realise that the mountain on which they live is moving, Pema’s family send him to the nuns on its summit for help. Things don’t go to plan, and instead Pema and a girl called Singay, reluctant and rebellious novice, break into the mountain itself. There they find Rose, an alien, inadvertently responsible for the moving mountain. The three set off together to save the world, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Their journey will be dangerous, and full of more unexpected adventures. Lennon breathes real life into the quest formula, filling the story with light, life and humour, and making us feel more and more attached to her characters as the story unfolds. ~ Andrea Reece One to recommend to fans of Angie Sage and the Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell.
June 2017 Book of the Month In a Nutshell: Twins fight for freedom under an authoritarian system This slickly plotted dystopian thriller set in a terrifying totalitarian regime will keep fans of The Hunger Games gripped to the very last word. Seventeen-year-old twins Cassie and Becca (known to each another as Careful Cassie and Ridiculous Rebecca) are alike as the idiomatic chalk and cheese. Becca is a born rebel who pushes the boundaries of their strictly regimented society to the limit, while Cassie never steps out of line. When Becca disappears, Cassie is on her own. Their ma has supposedly been “taken away for a mood-adjust”, while Pa is dying in the Lingering Wing. And Becca isn’t the only one to have vanished. Other kids and teenagers have gone too. But while the Provost of their administrative region accuses the disappeared of being “Outsiders, bad citizens, who don't want to live by the cell rules”, Becca’s narrative from within the “crazy house” presents an entirely different interpretation. Inside the prison, executions abound and inmates are subjected to horrific challenges. Dare Becca hope that she can be the first to escape? And can Cassie shake off her cautiousness to save her sister? Stylistically snappy, and snaking with shocking revelations, the final twist in this tale packs an entirely unpredictable punch. All in all, this is a compulsive must-read for fans of fiction fuelled by badass survivalism. ~ Joanne Owen
In a Nutshell: Flame-hot dystopian thriller This dynamo of dystopian YA, the first in the Dark Matter trilogy, sizzles with sinister science and supernatural intrigue. 12 year-old Callie has survived an epidemic and broken out of an institute where she was known only as Subject 369X. While she’s struggling to deal with her transformation into an unimaginably shocking state – the excruciating effect of her treatment - her beloved half-brother Kai is searching for her. Enter Shay. Sharp-minded Shay has a photographic memory and remembers seeing Callie get into a car. As Shay and Kai try to piece together the mystery, the epidemic worsens. Schools are closed, a major army-administered quarantine operation is put into place, and Kai and his doctor mother are among the few who seem immune to the disease’s deadly grip. And then Shay herself seems to survive it, but why? So many questions unravel and knot, knot and unravel, as this gripping story accelerates to a cliffhanger of a conclusion. When Shay works out what’s going on, she’s hit by her most devastating realisation yet, and readers will be left desperate for the trilogy’s second installment in order to find out where this new knowledge takes her. Revenge, romance, ravaging disease, and a tenacious girl’s colossal survival instinct, this novel injects a high dose of adrenalin into the genre. ~ Joanne Owen
May 2017 Debut of the Month | High-octane, high-stakes fantasy quest in which a teenage boy finds himself embroiled a world of warring lands and self-sacrificing teenagers. At first, “gangly” Joe might seem an unlikely hero. The gripping opening scene sees him bullied by a pair of boys who steal his headphones. Then, when he flees to safety, Joe falls and finds himself in unfamiliar surroundings. Disoriented, he meets and helps a girl called Kaia who says she's a Carcassian Runner, in training for something called the Crystal Run. While Joe insists he has no idea as to how he ended up here, Kaia’s people suspect him of being an enemy, or in possession of special powers - what else could explain him having passed through the protective Shield that surrounds their territory? But Kaia senses that Joe isn’t a threat and so reveals that the peaceful, weaponless Carcassia is at war with the Kanabians, and their only means of defence is the Shield. In order to uphold its power, three Runners are chosen to pass through the Shield at the turn of each cycle. Kaia has been chosen, and now Joe is to accompany her, and everyone knows that Runners can’t return… This atmospheric YA debut from a bestselling novelist brims with all the hallmarks of a classic fantasy quest - a vividly evoked world, heart-rending conflict, compelling action - and the friendship that blossoms between Kaia and Joe makes their mission all the more powerful. ~ Joanne Owen
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