Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Longer Novels - more demanding

The Demon’s Watch
Written by Conrad Mason
David Fickling (eB)   £12.99
ISBN 978-0857560292
At the heart of the Middle Islands humans live peacefully among elves, goblins, trolls and fairies. Drunken brawls may erupt in taverns, entertainment may be savage, dubious deals are done, but generally major problems are avoided. Tabitha, inexperienced and young but daring and courageous when trouble strikes, is determined to restore order and desperate to prove herself.. Meanwhile at the Legless Tavern, overworked and undervalued, half-goblin boy, Joseph Grubb, finds a mysterious package threatening his life and that of the whole port. Menace encroaches and tension escalates as both a pirate mob and the powerful League of Light, dedicated to rooting out non-humans, wrestle for control. Then a vengeful witch returns, brewing retribution for her banishment in a spectacularly catastrophic fashion. An excellent debut fantasy novel which will entrance readers in its humour, setting and essential humanity, but which is original, witty and wise Full of pace and unexpected twists it will engage younger readers.
Tina Massey

Invisible Assassin: The Malichea Quest,
Written by Jim Eldridge
Bloomsbury (eB)   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1408817193
Jake is working as a Junior Communications Officer in a government department. His life becomes very complicated when he stumbles across the discovery of a hidden book which appears to hold an important secret about the future of the world.   The plot unfolds to reveal that there are more books, forming a whole library of hidden knowledge.  Each book is guarded by a person or an organisation, and it’s a dangerous task as Jake’s book and story bring danger and at least two deaths. This is an exciting spy story which reads like a James Bond thriller.  Jake starts as an unlikely hero but rises to the occasion to outwit his enemies. The plot moves quickly, with intriguing twists and turns, and keeps the reader guessing throughout.  The characters are real and the style is direct and accessible. A very readable adventure story!
Liz Dubber

Talina in the Tower
Written by Michelle Lovric
Orion (eB)   £9.99
ISBN 978-1444003383
Michelle Lovric’s latest Venetian tale is a dazzling mix of magical creatures and fantastical deeds.  Resourceful, and sometimes wilful, children frequently feature in her children’s novels, and Talina is no exception. Taken by her guardian to live in a remote Venetian tower when her parents mysteriously disappear, Talina must muster all her guile in order to defeat a wolf-like breed of Ravageurs who are filled with “baddened magic” and have epicurean appetites.  Befriended by a colony of cats and aided by her friend Professor Marin’s clever concoctions, Talina journeys to the isle of the Ravageurs to rescue her parents and save Venice from impending peril.  The narrative moves along at a cracking pace and is brimming with inventive detail. A hallmark of Michelle’s Venetian tales is the anecdotal & historical information about Venice which the reader gathers on the way, with further informative detail in a useful appendix. At the heart of this absorbing adventure lies a tale of justice and compassion in the face of cruelty.  The richly embellished language with its comic touches and anthropomorphic characters makes this a highly satisfying read.
Elaine Chant

The Paradise Trap
Written by Catherine Jinks
Quercus (eB)   £6.99
ISBN: 978-0857386731
The Paradise Trap perfectly illustrates how your dream holiday can turn into your worst nightmare. Marcus is horrified when his Mum, Holly, buys a caravan at Diamond Beach to relive her childhood holidays. However, the area has changed considerably, and not for the better, also the caravan is dilapidated and smelly. When they bump into Coco, Holly’s childhood friend, and her rather eccentric family, Marcus thinks things may not be so bad after all. That is before he and Coco’s son Eddison find a cellar beneath Marcus’ caravan, a cellar with many doors leading either to everyone’s dream holiday, or their worst nightmare.  I really enjoyed this original story. There is no contrived plot device to get rid of the parents, who are fully involved in the adventure, adding quirky behaviour; embarrassment for the children, but laughs for the reader. Their expertise complements the children’s ingenuity to overcome the many obstacles to their escape. The story moves along at a thrilling pace, with short exciting chapters making it fun and easy to read. Any book where the villain is an evil child-eating Siren and the hero is a genius gamer, has to be worth reading.
Jane Hall

Agent 21: Reloaded
Written by Chris Ryan
Red Fox (eB) £5.99
ISBN: 978-1849410083
A former SAS officer, Ryan is now an established writer of both children’s and adult fiction which draws on his real-life experiences. In this sequel to Agent 21, we catch up with Zak Darke, 14 years old and an orphan, recruited to a secret government agency to infiltrate situations unsuitable for adult operatives. Presumed dead by his remaining family after his previous mission, we find that Zak is alive, and about to be deployed once more. His task this time is to plant an explosive device on an African ship that will be carrying diamonds used by the terrorist organisation, Black Wolf, to launder dirty money. As you would expect, there are plenty of twists, turns, surprises and gadgets to keep the reader engaged with this page-turner. There are unexpected allies and resurrected villains in the mix as well. The USP of all Chris Ryan’s action novels is, of course, that Ryan has really been there and done that. No wonder, then, that the book is filled with technical and operational detail. So if you want to learn about AK47s, the bends and STARS (Surface to Air Recovery Systems) extractions, you’ve come to the right place.                                                   Stella Maden

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick
Edited by Chris Van Allsburg
Andersen   £14.99
ISBN: 978-1849394086
Fifteen years ago a mysterious author named Harris Burdick handed in a collection of beguiling pictures to a children’s publisher and then disappeared completely. That is what Chris Van Allsburg would like us to believe. Although his style is so distinctive, it is hard not to conclude that the hand behind the illustrations for the Burdick sketches was also the perpetrator of that fabulous picture book, Polar Express. In this edition of the Burdick mystery, Allsburg has compiled fourteen stories from major names in the writing world, like Jon Scieszka, Lois Lowry and Stephen King. Each of the tales was inspired by one of the pictures and the brief evocative words that accompany them. There is no end to the way in which these can be interpreted but such classics as ‘Uninvited Guests’, ‘The Seven Chairs’ and ‘The House on Maple Street’, in the hands of these authors, deal with the loneliness and unease which often pervades modern life and leave us wondering, like the HB enigma, what exactly is real in this world.
Richard Monte

Crow Girl
Written by Kate Cann
Barrington Stoke (R)   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1781121214
Lily is a victim in school, bullied by the girls and ignored by the boys. One evening she escapes into the woods and feeds some crows. This event is the beginning of her new life! Her Grandma changes the physical Lily, but the crows change her mentally. Lily begins to tame the crows so that they follow her and come when she calls. Using their natural behaviour, they become her allies. Her life is transformed by her relationship with the crows; she achieves the boyfriend of her dreams and the bullies are routed. This is a classic tale of a bullied loner who turns the tables on her tormentors. At the end of the story, there is the feeling that Lily is relishing her revenge and the reader is left with the niggling feeling that the bullied is turning into a bully herself, and enjoying it! This is a good discussion point for readers about the causes and nature of bullying and what the response should be. This is quite a short story-labelled “dyslexic friendly”- that entices the reader on, in order to find out what happens. It ends rather abruptly, so for any real resolution, the reader would need to read the two sequels Crow Girl Returns and Crow Girl Rises.
Pat Thompson

Crow Girl Rises
Written by Kate Cann
Barrington Stoke (R)   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1842999936
One of the Barrington Stoke specialist books for young people with dyslexia, this book is also a short, punchy read for any teen. Picking up where its predecessor, Crow Girl left off, this book follows the next stage of Lily Stansfield’s transformation from bullied outsider to self-confident protector of others. Using her bond with the local crows, who she has befriended, Lily puts paid to the bullying ways of the Parkway Girls once and for all. Along the way, she earns the adoration of the girls she protects, discovers a talent for costume making, and acquires a boyfriend who admires her cleverness and difference to others. Lily doesn’t change herself in order to fit in, she simply makes the most of the person she is to find creative outlets and like-minded people. Cann delivers a pacey and compelling read in very few pages, and in direct, straightforward language. She also puts over very successfully the message that if young people play to their strengths and find their happiness, they can transform their lives.
Stella Maden

The Seeing
Written by Diana Hendry
Bodley Head (eB)   £10.99
ISBN: 978-0370332130
This is a fabulous book, set in 1953, just eight years after the end of WW2. The prologue sets an intriguing scene, whose relevance is only revealed at the very climax of the story. The tale itself opens with a meeting at school, and a subsequent friendship, between Lizzie and the strange Natalie and her odd young brother Philip. Natalie lost her father during the war and this event has set in train a bizarre series of events where she and her brother, who has apparently got second sight, claim to see into peoples’ hearts and to discover if they are undercover Nazis waiting to spring into action. Despite her doubts, Lizzie is almost hypnotised by Natalie. Philip begins to make new friends including an artist, who Natalie has “identified” and she goes her own way to “eliminate the enemy”, with tragic consequences. It is a story on many levels, about friendship with a dominant and manipulative person and about a child, for Natalie is still a child, who was so traumatised, when quite young, by the loss of a parent in war, that she devises her own way of getting revenge, using her own brother’s dubious powers.  It’s brilliant!
Pat Thompson

Body Blow
Peter Cocks
Walker Books (eB)   £6.99
ISBN 978-1406327281
Eddie Savage, 18, is recovering from the gunshot wounds and trauma of his first foray as a criminal intelligence agent. Bored in hiding in Stoke-on-Trent, he readily takes on another undercover job in Spain disguised as Pedro Garcia, a Spaniard who will be of use to the infamous Kelly gang. Eddie/Pedro has been rapidly trained in the Spanish language and deadly combat. Though his looks have been expertly altered, Eddie risks discovery as it was he who put former gang-leader, Tommy Kelly, behind bars (in the first title of the series, Long Reach). Tommy’s brother, Frank, even madder and less predictable, now runs the operation. The rapid pace, real locations and explosive violence propel the reader on while quite complex characters and underworld routines make for credibility.
Tina Massey

Grisha Book 1: The Gathering Dark
Written by Leigh Bardugo
Indigo (eB)   £8.99
ISBN: 978-1780621104
This is the first of The Grisha Trilogy and we are introduced to two orphans, Alina and Mal, somewhere in Russia.  Alina discovers a power that takes her into the world of the Grisha, the kingdom’s magical elite. The Darkling is the leader of the Grisha and Alina is attracted to him but knows she must discover how to unlock her power if she is to save her country and help Mal. The characters are very strong and the story is fast with lots of intrigue and excitement. This will really appeal to teenage fantasy fans that will be looking forward to the sequel.
Ingrid Fox

Burn Mark
Written by Laura Powell
Bloomsbury (eB)   £6.99
ISBN 978-140881522 9
The ‘burn mark’ is the dark bloodspot marking a witch. Glory, a young trainee witch of a once-powerful coven, strives to keep her ability secret as a violent criminal family try to pressure her into marriage so that they can use her to dominate the whole of east London. Meanwhile Lucas, son of the Inquisition’s Witchfinder General, proud to be a twelfth generation Witchfinder, is appalled to discover his own burn mark. Lucas and Glory join forces to combat threats from gang members engrossed in gang warfare, their own families and finally a secret cult of witch haters. The two allies must learn how to control their gifts, whilst trying to infiltrate the gangs and to avoid capture and torture. A most unusual novel which sets 20th Century London criminals, a modern day Inquisition,  and the problems of adulthood and  being different into complex patterning. At its heart is a concern for people and compassion for others. Surprisingly credible, a thoughtful and authentic read.
Tina Massey

Written by Mary Hooper 
Bloomsbury (eB)   £6.99  
ISBN: 987-0747599210
This is another wonderful story from a writer of great historical fiction.  The Victorian heroine of this story, an orphan called Velvet, is rescued from her exhausting job in a steam laundry to become a lady’s maid for the well known clairvoyant Madame Savoya. Velvet cannot believe her luck and she easily adapts to her new life, completely believing that Madame’s amazing powers are quite genuine. As time goes by Velvet becomes aware that there are a great number of fake mediums operating in London and she begins to wonder if Madame might also be a fraud, extorting money from the rich and vulnerable to maintain her expensive lifestyle. Thank goodness Velvet has a good friend who is a policeman! Although Madame Savoya is a fictional character it is well known that the Victorians were very interested in spiritualism and many prominent people, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, regularly attended séances. The author has woven a great deal of accurate historical details into Velvet’s story, but thankfully this does not weigh the story down.
Jan Lennon

No comments:

Post a Comment