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February 2020 Debut of the Month | Set in a world that’s become “a walking graveyard”, this edge-of-your-seat thriller teems with cinematic chills and the tender love between two teenage boys. Indeed, author Darren Charlton has hit the nail on the head in describing his debut as The Walking Dead meets Brokeback Mountain. “Clock it. Kill it. Rid the world of it” - this is how encounters with the zombie Restless Ones must be handled, a mantra soon-to-be-sixteen-year-old Peter struggles to follow. Too trusting, and infinitely better with a darning needle than an axe or gun, he’s something of a liability to the community, especially as another winter sets in, for “winter was the one season every Lake Lander feared. Not because Montana was about to get colder than an eagle’s gaze. But because the Dead could make it across the lake’s frozen waters.” When the community comes under serious threat during their annual First Fall party, Peter winds up as zombie bait with his at-one-with-the-wilds boyfriend Connor responsible for wrangling the Restless Ones like a post-apocalyptic cowboy. On the mainland, the young lovers uncover an earth-shattering secret and it’s not long before Connor’s situation is seriously comprised, leading to Peter stepping-up and standing tall. Gripping and graphically gory, this dynamic debut is dystopian horror with a difference, for it pulsates not only with terror and visceral violence, but also with love, affection and emotional atmosphere.
February 2020 Book of the Month | This gripping must-read for sports fans fizzes with a powerful message about picking yourself up and self-belief, and a poignant portrayal of gang culture coercion. I cannot praise Dan Freeman’s compassion-rich writing enough. Life’s not easy for twin fourteen-year-olds Kaine and Roxy growing up on their London estate. Their dad’s lost his job and mum works all hours. But Roxy and Kaine aren’t your average teenagers. He’s a super-talented footballer with Premier League potential, and she’s an outstanding tennis player, tipped for the top. Oh, and they can’t stand each other. After being close as kids, they’ve grown apart, with Roxy loathing the fact that Kaine’s always in trouble, and Kaine hating the way Roxy gets all the attention and support, overlooked even when a scout for a Premier League club comes to watch him. Both a bundle of frustration, Kaine is tempted into dangerous territory. If only Mamma, their Barbados-born grandmother, was around to keep Kaine on the right track. Mamma’s warm, wise presence is felt throughout the novel. She was the person Kaine turned to in times of need. She’d feed him soul food, remind him that he’s special, urge him to “do the extraordinary.” Sage advice comes from Kaine’s supportive PE teacher too, who counsels “There are paths in life, there are choices. And you are at one of those crossroads now”. When tragedy strikes as Kaine loses his way it takes a whole lot of soul-searching for him to turns things round and become the extraordinary young man he is. And Roxy tackles her profoundly life-changing situation with heartrending courage too. With overriding messages of hope, compassion, doing the right thing and staying true to yourself, this is an absolute galáctico, Grand Slam winner of a novel.
Jess’s mother was the first victim of a serial killer who came to be known as the Magpie Man, and ten years later the case is still unsolved, and the death toll stands at thirteen. A chance to be part of a YouTube reality show for teenagers gives Jess an idea; what if while being filmed, she can goad the Magpie Man into revealing himself? This inevitably raises reader’s questions about the social responsibility of media companies and the way both police and responsible adults allow Jess to take this reckless attitude to her own safety. But in reality, it seems that Jess lost two parents the day her mother was killed, her quest for the killer is also a chance to rescue her father from a deep depression. She luckily has good friends, both old and newly discovered in this process, looking out for her. The plot constantly twists and turns and keeps the reader inexorably gripped throughout. The ultimate reveal of who and why is both satisfactory as well as surprising. Told entirely in the first person the character development of Jess is outstanding and the subtle nuances of grief and the way in which bereavement affects other people and their treatment of you is very well done. A novel that is entirely current and yet with the age-old thrill of a complex mystery.
Shortlisted for the Blue Peter Best Book of the Decade. James Bond is back, aged 13 years. The original superspy. A global phenomenon . A hero every boy wants to be, and every girl wants to know. Ages 10+ years. This title is also available on audio CD. Charlie Higson’s New Bond Series is available in order of Silverfin, Blood Fever, Double Or Die and Hurricane Gold. Perfect for Reluctant Readers as well as keen readers. To view other titles we think are suitable for reluctant readers please click here.
The stakes are high, dangerously high in this thrilling new adventure for the young James Bond. The opening scene of chilling horror leaves readers in no doubt of evil intent that drives the criminal gang. Intent that will soon be focused on the Young Bond and his friends in the Caribbean. Their struggle for survival is nailbiting – and the romance is great, too. Also available in Audio CD. Charlie Higson’s New Bond Series is available in order of Silverfin, Blood Fever, Double Or Die and Hurricane Gold.
Hugh (11) – I was hooked on the Young Bond series after reading the first, Silverfin. The second, Blood Fever, was better and so I was eagerly awaiting the third and I haven’t been disappointed. This time James has to solve a complex seven part riddle to rescue a Master at school – but there is so much more going on and the action packed plot left me guessing as to what might happen next. Also available in Audio CD. Charlie Higson’s New Bond Series is available in order of Silverfin, Blood Fever, Double Or Die and Hurricane Gold.
Adventure, and loads of it - By Royal Command is the fifth page turning thriller about the school days of James Bond. Whether on holiday or at school, James finds it hard to keep out of danger. Even on school skiing holiday, he has a feeling he is being followed. But who could be watching him? And why? Recovering in a clinic after saving the life of a school contemporary in the vast expanse of the Swiss Alps, James witnesses a sinister scene. Later, he meets the royal princesses and then their uncle, the King, himself. And then Sedova, a senior member of the Russian secret service turns up at school. Despite promising his friends he’ll be the model schoolboy, James is back in the thick of international action. Life at school itself is not much quieter, whether it is trying to avoid the sadistic head of house or defusing an Irish plot to kill the King. A thrilling read from first to last. Also in this series: Silverfin Blood Fever Double or Die Hurricane Gold
Winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards - Book I couldn't put down.Fans and non-fans of the grown up James Bond alike will be equally attracted to the young James Bond, now back to be the hero of a second title, Blood Fever. Still at Eton, James is drawn into the same kind of derring-do as his grown up self but here the adventure with a Latin-speaking group of Italian dissidents is good clean fun tinged with an entirely appropriate amount of menace. Brilliant plotting will make it a sure-fire winner. Also available in Audio CD. Charlie Higson’s New Bond Series is available in order of Silverfin, Blood Fever, Double Or Die and Hurricane Gold. Perfect for Reluctant Readers as well as keen readers. To view other titles we think are suitable for reluctant readers please click here.
Powerfully thought-provoking alternate-history thriller in which an unforgettable heroine seeks revenge on Hitler. It’s 1956, more than ten years since the Nazis won the war, and 17 year-old Yael belongs to a resistance movement. After enduring scientific experimentation as a child in Auschwitz, she possesses the power to change her appearance at will, along with tattoos of wolves on her arm, and a single-minded determination to kill Hitler. To this end, Yael must embark on a road-trip like no other; she must win a motorbike race that sees her traverse the world. Alternating between Yael’s epic journey as a young woman and events from her childhood, this is an extravaganza of a story, a multi-layered tapestry of alternate-history, dystopian thriller and heroine-driven quest. Like Yael, the writing is fearless, smart and energetic, and readers will be left desperate for the sequel. ~ Joanne Owen
UKLA Longlist Book Awards - 2019 | This explosively unique page-turner sees a seventeen-year-old maths genius with anxiety disorder become embroiled in a treacherous world of espionage following an assassination attempt on his scientist mum. Maths prodigy Pete is afraid of pretty much everything. He suffers from severe panic attacks and, along with the support of his older (by eight minutes) twin sister Bel and fellow maths fanatic friend Ingrid, he uses logic to try to keep himself harnessed. In Pete’s words, “maths governs everything in the world.... I lost myself in the numbers trying to find the mathematics of me”. Pete’s world whirls off in unimaginably unexpected directions when his mum is stabbed at an awards ceremony and a hitherto hidden world unfolds. As Pete and Ingrid deploy what they’re best at to figure out what the hell is going on, the author throws out fresh revelations - just when you think you’ve worked out part of the puzzle, another twist lurches you off-course. Who to trust? What to believe? This incredibly smart thriller defies comparison.
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | Elizabeth Wein’s thrilling new World War II story stars a young Polish pilot – a female one. Kristina Tomiak and her twin brother are members of the White Eagles, Poland’s air force, and at the forefront of their country’s resistance when the Nazis invade. Things quickly turn bad and Kristina is forced to flee in her RWD-8 plane, together with an unexpected passenger. As she makes her escape, her destination changes until finally she is heading towards England. The story is full of excitement and gives readers a broad yet detailed understanding of those early days of the war, and of flying a plane too. Published by Barrington Stoke this is written to be accessible to all readers including those with dyslexia but I recommend it to any reader fascinated by history and the brave individuals who make it.
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | May 2016 Book of the Month This electrifyingly smart story of a teen girl's struggle with a tormenting voice in her head is a masterwork of contemporary YA. There's a murderer on the loose in Cassie's New Jersey hometown, the so-called Houdini Killer, which sets her quick-to-anger dad even more on edge than usual. A former Navy SEAL with untreated posttraumatic stress syndrome, he now runs the family restaurant, a site of distressing memories for them both. After finding a foot in a sneaker on the beach - one of the Houdini Killer’s victims - Cassie hears a voice telling her that she's disgusting, and it won’t let up. Convinced she's “forever doomed like Cassandra of myth - the girl who leaves a trail of violence in her wake”, the bullying voice makes Cassie promise to obey it. And she does, with near-fatal consequences, when, for example she injects herself with her Epi-Pen, which results in her being hospitalised. In the clinic she meets the irrepressible Paris. A bipolar survivor of abuse, Paris comes to play a huge part in Cassie’s life, as does one of the boys staying in her dad’s apartment for the summer. The only time the voice is really silenced is when Cassie is with him, but the voice has other plans for their burgeoning relationship. Taking the form of the “most screwed-up love letter ever” written from Cassie to the boy she falls for, this gripping, multilayered novel is an insightful exploration of grief, broken families, mental illness and the lies we tell others - and ourselves - out of fear. It’s also about losing yourself, and coming to find your true voice. Lake has a huge talent for tackling classic YA themes, but always forges his own path, cutting through clichés, stripping back the superficial, to reach the heart of his brilliantly complex characters, all delivered through spectacularly plotted storylines. ~ Joanne Owen
The second in the highly anticipated new series by Lemony Snicket, the enigmatic author of the bestselling A Series of Unfortunate Events. The series reveals how a young Lemony Snicket, in a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, began an apprenticeship in a secret organisation. This time he must find a missing girl.
This riveting read-in-one-sitting nail-biter tells the tale of 18-year-old New Yorker Magda, who’s been sent to live with her wealthy grandparents in their summer home on the edge of a forest. Though feeling “frozen on the inside” by the cocktail of medication she must take following a tragic scandal at her elite school, Magda falls head over heels in love (and lust) with “wild boy” Bo, who “has all the self-assurance of an alpha, but none of the swagger” and lives in the woods in which a few young women have been found dead. As Magda gets to know Bo’s wild-living family (even confessing all about her dangerously duplicitous past to his Earth Mother mom), more bodies are found, with some pinning the murders on a man called Dr Goodnight. When Magda turns detective to discover his identity (or, indeed, if he even exists), it becomes impossible for her to know who she can trust ahead of the high-octane climax that will have readers perched on the very edge of their seats.
UKLA Longlist Book Awards - 2019 | Set in a frightening future version of London in which the lives of two teenage boys cruelly collide in a divided city, this gripping page-turner has pertinent contemporary resonance, and packs powerful moral and emotional punches. Read it to be thrilled, chilled, and to have your eyes well and truly opened. Teenagers Alan and Lex are on either side of a war policed by drones. Lex lives on The Strip, a bombed-out territory in which the poverty-stricken inhabitants are under constant drone surveillance. “In this city, death seems to perpetually hover nearby, like a needy bully”, Lex remarks, while his dad is part of The Corps resistance movement that’s fighting the bullies, rendering him a top target for the military. On the other side of the divide, fatherless Alan was written off at a young age – “Nobody ever thought I'd amount to anything" - but his talent for gaming has secured him his perfect job as a drone pilot, a role in which he has “absolute power without a single boot on the ground”. But, while he’s proud to protect his country from “terrorists who want to destroy us”, Alan is forced to confront a magnitude of moral dilemmas when he’s tasked with killing a high profile target, who turns out to be Lex’s dad… The dual-narrative device works to great effect as we see both boys wrestling with issues of ethics, family conflict and, in Lex’s case, the overwhelming experience of first love. Ambitious and assured, this keenly plotted thriller also probes deep into the human heart, and comes recommended for fans of Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman.