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Born under a blood moon, twin sister travellers, Kizzy - a brave, voluptuous bear dancer - and Lil - slight in frame and blessed with a beautiful voice – are captured after their camp is ransacked on the eve of their divining, the coming-of-age rite that would have seen them learn their fates. With many kinsfolk slain, the twins are enslaved by Boyar Valcar and set to work in the castle kitchens, where rumours about the notorious Dragon loom large over all the female slaves. Separated when Kizzy is snatched away, Lil escapes to search for her sister with Mira, a fellow slave. As they race against time to save Kizzy, encountering the terrifying strigoi (undead) along the way, powerful desires are awakened, which adds extra conflict as the story winds to its transfixing climax. Driven by the sisters’ passion and revenge, loyalty and love, and powerful on the persecution of travellers, this is a dazzling female-focused reimagining of vampire legends, with the writing infused with a lyrical earthiness throughout.
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.
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.
'In an ancient city by the sea, three sisters - a maiden, a mother, and a crone - are drawing maps by candlelight. Sombre, with piercing grey eyes, they are the three Fates, and every map is a human life . . .' Stepsister takes up where Cinderella's tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella's two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attempt. It doesn't matter, though; these qualities are not valued in a girl. Others have determined what is beautiful, and Isabelle does not fit their definition. Isabelle must face down the demons that drove her cruel treatment of Ella, challenge her own fate and maybe even redefine the very notion of beauty . . . Cinderella is about a girl who was bullied; Stepsister is about the bully. We all root for the victims, we want to see them triumph. But what about the bullies? Is there hope for them? Can a mean girl change? Can she find her own happily ever after?
Shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2020 | The murder of schoolgirl Andie Bell was the talk of Pippa Fitz-Amobi’s town, and she’s convinced the police got the wrong guy. Under the guise of writing an EPQ on the media’s coverage of the crime, Pippa sets out to discover the truth. The Branford Boase judges said : ‘compulsive reading’; ‘all the characters are credible’; ‘I loved the story, loved its pace’; ‘I was caught out by the twist!’.
Nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Megal 2019 -Shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards Teen/Young Adult Book of the Year 2018 | Blending folkloric fantasy with contemporary romance, this immersive multi-layered novel heralds the arrival of a unique new voice in young adult fiction. Each Christmas, Wren is hunted in a twisted, tormenting re-enactment of an old game. But the village bullies don’t realise that Wren is part of the Augur family, formerly powerful kinfolk whose magical influence was all but obliterated by the Judges. When Wren is captured in the hunt and a boy claims a lock of her hair, she must become a spy in the house of the most powerful Judge of all. Straddling ancient Celtic mythology and the 21st century, the exhilarating storyline teems with tension as Wren lies, steals and searches her heart and soul while summoning up magic to save her family. The language is lyrical, the concept unique and, while comparisons are tricky to make, I’d recommend this highly to fans of Frances Hardinge’s thought-provoking fantasy.
Set in the United States ‘fifteen minutes in the future’ this cuttingly timely cautionary tale exposes Islamophobia and bigotry through the injustices inflicted on seventeen-year-old Layla and her resulting fight for freedom. Layla has her sights set on her future when, on one terrifying night, she and her parents are visited by the Exclusion Authority. “Under order of the Exclusion Authority and by the powers vested in the secretary of war under Presidential Order 1455, we are here to serve notice and carry out your relocation,” declares one of the suited men. What “relocation” means in this hostile, intolerant society is that Layla and her family are snatched from their home and interned in a camp with fellow Muslim-Americans, their wrists stamped with permanent ID numbers on arrival. The backdrop of book-burnings, curfews, Exclusion Laws and a president who declares, “Muslims are a threat to America” is all too powerfully prescient and evoked in an entirely believable fashion. But while confined in the camp, strong, caustic-tongued Layla orchestrates an uprising against the guards and camp Director. Urgent and intense – much like Layla’s acts of resistance – this novel of social justice will chill, grip, start conversations and mobilise readers to speak out against racism and intolerance. In the words of Layla’s poet dad, “we have a moral and ethical obligation to tell the truth.
September 2018 Book of the Month | From the creator of the mega-selling Cherub series comes the author’s first foray into standalone fiction, a killer-concept, Vegas-set page-turner in which a virus threatens to wipe out humanity. Fourteen-year-old Brit boy Harry is a something of a fish out of water in his Vegas high school. His photojournalist mum died when he was seven, and she’s given him “an urge to follow her path”, which is why Harry grasps his first big opportunity when there’s an explosion at his school and he riskily films the aftermath. As his footage goes viral and starts earning him big bucks, thirteen-year-old Charlie is in the frame for the attack. Described as “low-rent trailer trash” by Harry’s friend, she’s a science geek with a rough home life and a history of making explosives. Harry sees her as a “beautiful freak”, though, and over the course of the next eight years their lives crisscross at a pivotal point in human history. With gene-editing tech developing at a rapid pace, everyone wants in on procedures that can enhance their body and brain. But, with the terrorist-created Killer T virus spreading like wildfire, and a crazily huge ransom demanded for the release of a cure, society is sinking into a hot mess of modified monsters, death and violence, with Charlie and Harry trying to hang on to doing the right thing. Charlie and Harry are the kind of fully-formed characters whose stories you’re desperate to follow. They’re complicated, authentically flawed, and the sparky tension between them is tinglingly tangible. This is truly gripping tale, big in scope, big in action and big in emotional impact.
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.
One of our 2018 Books of the Year | On the surface, this is a story about a girl who discovers she's a witch, in a world where that is a highly dangerous thing to be. But it's contemporary life that really fascinates Melvin Burgess and this is as much a story of growing up and independence as it is a story of dark magic. It also contains a thoroughly disturbing dissection of coercion and control as central character Bea is manipulated into doing things that cause irrevocable harm to herself and others. The book opens with Bea and her family returning home after a day out. Crossing the moors they run into The Hunt, violent supernatural creatures tracking and attacking other witches. Bea is able to stop them, powerfully summoning help but revealing her supernatural ability at the same time. With the awakening of her witch nature, the world becomes a different place, more beautiful but more frightening as she is surrounded by visions that only she can see. Befriended by other witches she is given a terrible choice: safety and freedom with them means she must leave her own human family for ever. Under pressure from her parents she decides to give up her new powers for a 'normal' life, but is snatched away at the last minute by the wild boy she is beginning to love - is it a rescue, or an abduction? It's typical of Burgess that the book raises so many questions about temptation and individual choice, freedom and responsibility; typical too that the consequences of Bea's decisions are shown to be so painful, and permanent. Powerful, uncompromising reading.
August 2018 Debut of the Month | Sarah Epstein’s well-crafted psychological thriller will keep readers on their toes, and nervously checking over their shoulders too. Aged just 8, Tash witnessed her imaginary friend the sinister Sparrow kidnap a little girl from a fair. Nine years and lots of therapy later, Tash has learned to keep quiet about what happened, convinced along with her parents that what she saw was just the imagination of a little girl desperate for attention. But when circumstances draw her back to the area, back to the fairground, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. Can she believe her eyes? Can we believe her? Dark and twisty, this is hard to put down and good, creepy fun.