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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.
Norman is not your typical middle grade protagonist. He’s a twenty-three -year-old man who lives suburbia with his cat Morph. Oh, and he’s dead. After accidently blowing the roof off his house, Norman and Morph find themselves in the company of Abathar, The Weigher of Souls who more commonly goes by the name of Sir Poop (short for The Purveyor of Opportunistic Power). Sir Poop gustily informs Norman that he’s “been specially chosen to become a Ghosteleer whose “mission is to protect human beings who are destined to become great inventors or make discoveries that will improve the living world”. Both Norman and Morph undergo schooling in the art of Ghosteleering, which sees Morph excel in the art of telekinesis while Norman’s skills are somewhat less pronounced. Indeed, “Norman’s cat was proving himself more intelligent than him!” It’s not long before their true quest begins and along the way there’s much silliness and humour, such as when Sir Poop likens post-death paradise to Brighton, and through Norman’s general haplessness (despite his age, Norman certainly doesn’t behave like a fully-grown adult!). Short and pacey, this could be a good one to read aloud using amusing in-character voices.
January 2019 Debut of the Month | A group of Bristolian sixth-formers experience a whole lot more than the thrills and chills of the ski-slopes they’re expecting when one of their party discovers a trail of blood in their lodge. For outcast Charlie this trip was supposed to be a break from his troubled homelife, but he and his peers are now up to their necks in a gruesome, gory nightmare. Matters take a monstrous, mythical turn after ski instructor Hanna tells the students a tale “about things that lived in the woods. Things that only came out at night”… The action is jumpy, the writing sparse and direct, with plenty of unexpected twists to keep readers on the edge of their seats alongside the characters’ varied backstories. An accomplished debut for fans of atmospheric horror.
Best known for his action-packed Alex Rider series, Anthony Horowitz is also a master of the macabre, as evidenced by these ten terrifying tales. Take the gruesome opener, “Bet Your Life”, that sees 16-year-old Danny participate in the finale of a TV quiz show in which there’s much more at stake than the multimillion pound prize. Other sources of shock include the sinister sat nav in a stolen BMW, a rogue Robo-Nanny, a monumentally messed-up French exchange, and a deeply disturbing incarnation of eBay on which people bid to buy humans. Then there’s the centrepiece of “Are You Sitting Comfortably?”, a monstrous massage chair that serves a generous helping of just desserts to an exploitative stepdad. The stories are sharply crafted, and the writing wryly amusing, with “Note from the Chairman of Walker Books” providing a deliciously dark denouement, and added in-the-know gallows humour to those in the children’s book world. This is a tense, twisted, treat for fans of frightsome fiction, with the bite-sized narrative bursts making it ideal for reluctant readers.
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.
“Ghosts are everywhere...Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.” So claims Cass, the awesomely amiable heroine of this atmospheric treat for pre-teen readers. But, in Cass’s case, she actually can see ghosts, and her adorable best friend Jacob just happens to be one. Her gift of supernatural sight comes in very handy for her parents, a pair of bungling ghost-hunters called The Inspectres. While they’re on a TV show assignment in eerily-evoked, phantom-ridden Edinburgh, Cass meets a fellow ghost see-er (an In-betweener) and quickly becomes caught up in a high-stakes mission that forces her to hone her gift while traversing the worlds of the living and the dead. Alongside the smart concept and rollicking action, Cass and Jacob’s friendship (replete with fun Friendship Rules, and cemented by their love of comics), gives this tale a tingly, warm glow. Quirky, cute and creepy, this is middle grade fiction at its most entertaining.
The three stories in Anne Fine’s new Weird Street collection are guaranteed to send delicious shivers down the spine, even on the hottest summer day. In classic Gothic tradition, the narrative is passed from one storyteller to another: three children, neighbours on Weir (aka Weird) Street share local ghost stories. Laila’s tale has a happy ending, but is just uncanny enough to unsettle us; Asim’s story is both scary and tragic, haunting in every sense; while Tom’s is seriously creepy. Anne Fine is a superb writer and knows just how to turn the psychological screw. Highly readable, the stories will deliver their chills on each re-reading too. Perfect to thrill and chill, and particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
This smart sci-fi-infused thriller sees a group of friends faced with having to make the mother of all life and death decisions. The night Bee decides to visit her estranged friends one year on from the mysterious death of her enigmatic boyfriend, Jim, ends with them involved in a car accident, and then they’re dealt a gut-wrenching revelation by a strange old man. Initially dismissive, the friends are soon hit by the realisation that the stranger isn’t just some random crazy, and they really must make the hideous decision he issues them with. While the rest of the group dive into destruction mode, Bee makes some profound realisations: “Without time, nothing had meaning.” Throughout Bee is an engaging narrator, her language and thoughts incisive, measured, lucidly poetic. As her world implodes, she wonders if their situation is somehow because of Jim, whose “death had been the earthquake that swallows cities”. His death continues to cause monumental convulsions as they try to figure out what happened to him, which sees their group dynamic disintegrate into a tangle of distrust. Throw in the secrets of a cult time-travel novel, a showdown with Jim’s parents, and a whole lot of ricocheting revelations, and you have a compelling cauldron of end-days detective fiction.
This first timelessly terrifying tale in a new series from the creator of The Spook’s Apprentice confirms the author’s status as a veritable master of crafting elementally powerful worlds from fascinating pockets of English folklore. Crafty is a Fey. As such he can hear the whisperings of his dead brothers, and he’s immune to the powers of the Shole, a horrifying mist that’s enveloping the Lancashire region. It was the Shole that claimed his non-Fey mother, while his brothers died working for the Chief Mancer, which is what Crafty does now too. After a miserable period shut-up in a cellar with only the occasional companionship of a deceased Bog Queen warrior to brighten his days, he’s passed the test to work as a gate grub, the lowliest of those employed by the Castle Corpus, and a highly dangerous role to boot. Alongside the creeping unfolding of an un-put-down-able story, I adored Crafty’s boundless candor and curiosity, and his friendship with fellow gate grubs Donna and Lucky suffuses his bleak situation with welcome warmth. But, ultimately, with his court courier father missing in action, Crafty is pretty much alone in an increasingly perilous situation… This exquisitely compelling tale tingles with as much raw, pure storytelling prowess and intrigue as it does with the slither and menace of multiple monstrous beasts, and I cannot wait for the second instalment.
Frances Hardinge creates a brilliant sense of menace in this chillingly dark fairy story . Something sinister, beyond just getting wet, happens to Triss when she falls into the Grimmer. Something that causes her to change in all kinds of ways which her parents don't recognise. Triss can feel the changes - she is always hungry, her hair is full of leaves, her tears are like cobwebs and her sister is terrified of her - but she cannot understand why they are happening. Somehow, Triss has been taken over. She is now a changeling and she needs to search through the underworld of the city itself to find the truth. ~ Julia Eccleshare