Book reviews - fiction 11 & over (page 5)

The most recent reviews are at the top of the page, so these are generally the most recently published books.

Six by M. M. Vaughan

This fast-paced novel tells the story of Parker Banks and his family, who have moved from London to New York. Parker's new life is tough - he's bullied at school and his dad doesn't have time for him. But when his dad is kidnapped, it's Parker, his deaf sister Emma and their friend Michael who must find and rescue him. To help, they have the E.F.E. device that their dad has invented to allow the family members to communicate with one another through telepathy. It soon becomes apparent that SIX, their father's project, has sinister implications; implications that could threaten the whole world. The characters are excellent - credible and likeable; the story keeps the reader on tenterhooks and there are plenty of sub-plots to keep interest alive and, I think, to offer scope for a sequel.

A Seven-Letter Word by Kim Slater

Ever since Finlay's mother vanished two years ago, his stutter has become almost unbearable. He becomes isolated, barely able to hold a conversation and the target of bullies. He finds solace in writing long letters to his mother, even though he knows she will never read them. All those words trapped in his head are perfect for playing Scrabble online and he is good enough to enter the National Scrabble Championship. But when Finlay is befriended by an online Scrabble player called Alex, everything changes; could it be his mother secretly trying to contact him, or something more sinister? I warmed to Finlay right from the start - he is excellently portrayed with a real insight into some of the angst teen boys suffer, much exacerbated in his case by his specific problems. It's good to see a male hero with deep emotional problems and this is a book that teen boys and girls will thoroughly enjoy.

Arrivals: How long can a secret be kept? by Brian Gallagher

Back in 1928, 12 year old Mike Farrelly made friends with Wilson, a lonely rich boy whose family had emigrated from Ireland, and Lucy, a feisty Ojibwe girl from a local reservation. The three spent the summer holidays having adventures together. But then a murder was committed, and Mike, Wilson and Lucy found themselves in danger. Suddenly, they had to trust each other, not only with their secrets, but with their lives. It has all remained a secret ... until Ciara Farrelly visits her dead grandfather's Ontario home and uncovers the secret. The story bounces back and forth from the events of 1928 and forward to Ciara's uncovering of the horrific happenings. Follow their story with Ciara as she traces its echo down the years – and find out what really happened one summer, long ago.

Storm Weaver by Matt Griffin

In the sequel to A Cage of Roots, Ayla and her friends travel further from home and deeper into the strange and ancient world of Fal. They journey through a land of ever-deepening magic, populated with characters bizarre and beautiful, wondrous and dangerous, and all compellingly portrayed. Their journey leads them to the Old Ones, where Ayla’s newfound powers are greeted with fear and trepidation. They will meet allies and enemies, old and new, with the lines blurred between friend and foe. Battles spiral into war, and not everyone will fall on the same side. It's a mesmerising story that has the reader pondering throughout on who can be trusted and who is the enemy. Atmospheric drawings are the perfect complement to the story and it's good to see illustrations in a book for this age group - it should help even reluctant readers to take an interest. A excellent read, full of darkness and mystery - a real page-turner.

The Sapphire Cutlass (The Diamond Thief) by Sharon Gosling

This is the third book in the excellent 'Diamond Thief' series which stars ex-jewel thief Remy Brunel and young detective Thaddeus Rec. Remy and the Ruby Airships's crew have travelled deep into the Indian jungle to learn the truth behind the mysterious Sapphire Cutlass. Remy is torn between helping her friends and finding her twin brother. Will her choice put everyone in danger? There's action, adventure, romance and a good dollop of history so there's plenty for everyone.

The Sign of One (Sign of One 1) by Eugene Lambert

Wrath is a dump-world for human outcasts; on Wrath, mothers dread giving birth to identical twins as only one will grow up human, while the other becomes a condemned monster with ‘twisted’ blood, known as a 'Twist'. Kyle is a Twist and when he is betrayed, he must flee for his life. As the hunt intensifies, Kyle soon realises that he is no ordinary runaway – although he has no idea why he warrants this level of pursuit. The hideous truth he, along with Sky, discovers could change the fate of Wrath and its harsh laws forever. Their reluctant, conflicted partnership will either save them – or bring about their destruction. Share with Kyle as he agonises about why he has been set apart and why he is viewed with such hatred. It's a fast-paced story, intriguing and mysterious.

Devil's Blood (The Books of Pandemonium) by Andrew Prentice and Jonathan Weil

Time works differently for devils ...In the place that we call Hell, the Lord of Swarms is plotting his conquest. In the shambles of London's Smithfield, Jack the Darksman sets off to steal a devil. And in a different London altogether, a wicked secret is about to be revealed. The stage is set for an adventure that will span centuries. Devils are rising once more in this wonderfully atmospheric and darkly engaging book.

Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den (Simon Thorn 1) by Aimée Carter

12 year old Simon Thorn is an Animalgam - he has always known that he can talk to animals, but he has discovered that he can also change into an animal at will. He has kept the secret of being able to talk to animals, thinking that nobody would understand. But when his mum is kidnapped by a herd of terrifying rats, and he sets out to find her, Simon discovers the Animalgam Academy located underneath Central Park Zoo. There he learns about the fractured five kingdoms that make up this secret world - Mammals, Birds, Insects, Reptiles and Underwater. And - terrifyingly - he is the only one who can save them. It's a mesmerising story, fast-paced and with some excellently drawn characters, so vividly told that the reader shares Simon's feelings and thoughts throughout the book. Great news - it's the first in a five part series.

Head Over Heels (Geek Girl, Book 5) by Holly Smale

This really is an excellent series and one that just gets better and better. Holly is a wonderful character and one with whom girls will readily identify; you have to love her and laugh with her, not at her. She is a positive character who sees the best in everything; a girl who is determined and upbeat. Holly knows many facts - and she also knows exactly where she wants her life to go. But given Holly's past history, will things turn out the way she wants? The stories are written in the first person and we share in Holly's triumphs and mishaps - and there are plenty of those, all related in her humorous style that is bound to bring a smile to your lips. Superb, and not surprisingly, Geek Girl was the no 1 bestselling YA fition title in the UK in 2013..

Jessica's Ghost by Andrew Norriss

This sensitive and touching story is full of the unexpected. Francis and Jessica form a deep friendship; a friendship the like of which they have never had before. You may ask what is unusual in that - Jessica is a ghost and Francis is the first person who has been able to see her since she died.I don't want to give away any of the storyline because this book is a must-read. It deals with friendship, sticking up for what you know is right, depression bullying taken to the extreme... all these facets interweave and are mesmerisingly related - I just couldn't put the book down. It handles sensitive topics with warmth and compassion and each character has his or her own story to tell. Despite the gritty topics, it is ultimately upbuilding and will leave the reader with a greater understanding and compassion.

Star Struck (Flirty Dancing 4) by Jenny McLachlan

The fourth and final book in the series tells the story of Pearl. Pearl is the 'bad girl' of the group - she drinks, she smokes, she swears - and she's mean to Bea and Betty. But she did fly halfway round the world to rescue Kat in Sunkissed, so she is a good friend, whatever her weaknesses. Now, more than ever, she could really use a friend. Pearl is destined to be the star of the school show - until new girl Hoshi auditions. Hoshi can sing and dance - and everyone falls under her spell. Never one to sit back, Pearl puts up a fight. Through the series, we have got to know the girls and I like the way each book focuses on one of the friends, rather than making the events the key - this means we have really got to know and like each one.

When We Collided by Emery Lord

Seventeen year old Jonah Daniels has lived in Verona Cove, California, his whole life. Recently, his father died and Jonah must take care of his family as they reel from their tragedy. And then a new girl appears on the scene - Vivi is positive and outgoing, a bundle of energy and emotion, totally in love with life. She seems like she's from another planet as she transforms Jonah's family and changes his life. But she too has problems despite her exuberant personality. What will be the outcome of these two troubled teens falling in love? The story builds and develops as the two travel on a collision course exacerbated by their emotional and mental problems which are so sensitively depicted in a book that has a real element of truth that will resonate with many a reader.

Divergent Series Box Set (Books 1-4) by Veronica Roth

Chicago, post-apocalypse, is the setting for the dramatic and haunting Divergent trilogy. It's an epic work set in the world of Divergent, where society is divided into five factions – Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity and Erudite. When young people reach the age of 16, they must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives, based on a test. Unusually and dangerously, Tris finds herself a Divergent - true to more than one faction. This boxed set, which will delight all fans of the series, includes Four: A Divergent Collection as well as the trilogy of books reviewed earlier on this page. Four is a companion volume that includes four pre-Divergent stories told from Tobias Eaton’s point of view. Readers will gain a real insight into this key character of the stories as they follow Tobias's transfer from Abnegation to Dauntless, his Dauntless initiation, and the first clues that a foul plan is brewing in the leadership of two factions. The fourth story, "The Traitor," is set in the same timeframe as Divergent. The superb writing and wonderful characterisation will keep the reader turning the pages right to the very end - and with four books in the set, it offers many hours of engrossing reading.

Plain Jane: When does being stuck become ... unstuck? by Kim Hood

Jane's sister Emma was diagnosed with cancer three years ago and her life has been shadowed ever since. Jane always has lived her life in Emma's shadow, though - Emma has always been the talented one and Jane has been happy to be out of the limelight. Now though, she feels stuck in a rut with nobody caring about what happens to her. But this is, ultimately, a positive and upbuilding story, as Jane begins to understand the real parts of her life that are good; her sister Emma's chances of recovery begin to improve and the two sisters try to rebuild the relationship they shared before the illness took over. The book is told with real insight and compassion; it takes the reader on a dark journey before bringing a real message of hope.

Malini (Through My Eyes 5) by Robert Hillman

We hear the news and read the newspapers, but sometimes these accounts can be impersonal and lose their human impact; this series, which is written from the perspective of people living through the events, really showcases the human angle. As the Civil War in Sri Lanka draws to its close, Malini and her family are among the thousands of innocent civilians used as a shield by Tamil Tiger troops as they find their way to the coast. Malini's father sends her off with her younger sister Banni - but they are thrust into greater danger. This is the moving account of their journey to hoped-for safety in their grandfather's village far inland. The author really gets inside the character of brave and resourceful Malini, and opens the readers' eyes to how it feels to be involved in conflict. An excellent teachers' guide is available.

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

When Suzy's best friend, Franny, drowns one summer at the beach, Suzy just can't accept the fact she has died, nor the manner of her death. Franny has always been a strong swimmer; how can she no longer be there? Suzy is convinced that Franny didn't simply drown but that she was stung by a poisonous jellyfish. She withdraws completely, consumed by her grief and unaware of the devastation she is causing to those around her. Suzy dedicates her time to finding out about jellyfish, in the hope of proving her theory. You'll be surprised by how much you will learn about jellyfish! The book is an emotional roller-coaster, with grief at its heart; it touchingly portrays how Suzy tries to come to terms with it, aided by her family and a supportive teacher. Unusual and highly recommended.

Riverkeep by Martin Stewart

The Fobisher family are the Riverkeeps - responsible for tending the river and fishing corpses from its treacherous waters. 15 year old Wulliam dreads the day he must take over - and that comes all too soon. But then everything changes. One night his father is taken over by a dark spirit, and Wull must care for his father, seek out a cure and tend the river. He learns that a cure lurks deep within the great sea-beast known as the mormorach; he must find it to save his father. It's exciting; it's thrilling; it's emotional - it's a roller-coaster of a book which draws the reader right in and doesn't want to let you go. Publication date 28/04/2016.

Railhead by Philip Reeve

At last - a new book from the wonderful Philip Reeve; and well worth the wait! The Great Network is a place of drones and androids, maintenance spiders and Station Angels; a place where trains criss-cross the galaxy in a heartbeat; a place fraught with danger. Zen Starling, a petty thief, little realises just what lies ahead when a mysterious stranger sends Zen and his new friend Nova on a mission to infiltrate the Emperor's train. He sees it as an opportunity to escalate his petty thieving - but is he out of his depth? A gripping, action-packed adventure with wonderfully portrayed characters who grip the reader throughout; the imaginary world is amazingly plausible; you will be thoroughly immersed by it. It's not a book to categorise, because that might put people off - it cleverly blends sci-fi with high-tech, fantasy with romance and more besides - try it for yourself and see what you think.

White Lies, Black Dare by Joanna Nadin

Asha Wright's life seems perfect - a barrister mum, a place at a private school, and high hopes for the future. But her world crumbles when when her mum gets cancer. Forced to move to a tough school in Peckham, she soon encounters Angel, the girl who is everything Asha would like to be. But being one of the gang comes at a cost, and Asha is forced to play a dangerous game of Truth or Dare. Where will it end? I'll tell you one thing - it builds to a dramatic climax. It's a story with a powerful message; a message about choices and their consequences, and a stark reminder about the importance of making the right decision.

War of the Realms (Valkyrie) by Kate O'Hearn

First - you really, really need to read Valkyrie and The Runaway before you read this (the review and the books!) or you will spoil everything. In the world of Asgard, living among Odin, Thor and Loki are the Valkyries of legend. The Norse goddesses who reap the fallen souls from human battlefields and have the power to cause death with just one touch are the legendary Valkyries. As this story starts, Freya and the Valkyries are trapped in the human world; how can they protect their homeland? Loki claims he knows another, secret route but can he be trusted? As the War of the Realms spills over into Earth, Freya and the Valkyries must find a way to save not just the Norse world but the human world as well. The author has created a richly imaginative world which has been developed and refined through the series, just as her characters have. It's sad to see the end of such a good series, but exciting to look forward to what the future holds from this talented author.

The Grindle Witch by Benjamin J. Myers

Witchcraft - it's enough to send a shiver down your spine and there will be plenty of shivers with this creepy and atmospheric story.City boy Jack Jolly thinks life in the tiny Northern village of Grindle will be boring. How wrong can you get? Jack finds himself in the middle of a terrifying mystery, and confronting an ancient evil - the Grindle Witch. But pitting yourself against a witch is a dangerous thing to do as Jack and his new friends, Paddy and Leila, soon discover. It's a superbly told story - an edge-of-the-seat read set in a convincingly and graphically described countryside. The characters develop as the story unfolds to its gripping conclusion. An intriguing and fascinating story.

Theodore Boone: The Fugitive: Theodore Boone 5 by John Grisham

Theodore Boone is a teenage lawyer and a courtroom hero. Still a schoolboy, he is on a class trip to Washington when he sees the most wanted man in the history of his home town, Strattenberg. Theo finds himself caught in the hunt for a murderer, getting himself deeply involved and in possible danger. Will justice be done, with Theodore's help ...or will the killer's criminal allies be out for revenge? Theodore Bone is a superb character - one minute schoolboy, the next high-flying lawyer; excellently written, full of mystery and suspense, these books are great reads.

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

Traumatised by the death of his father, Parker Santé hasn't spoken a word in five years. While his classmates keep their lives on track, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. Right from the start, you appreciate the perceptiveness of the book, as Parker looks at himself. When he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be much older than she looks, his outlook on life will change. Wonderful story telling, with many stories woven into the plot, coupled with mesmerising characters - Parker and Zelda are an unlikely but likeable and very real couple - make for an unputdownable read.

Chosen by Lucy Coats

This continues the story of Cleopatra, started in Cleo. It goes back to the time before she became the legendary figure we think we know. This fast-paced adventure story will give teen girls a really excellent alternative to stories set in the modern and future worlds and they will find it just as engaging, as the young Cleo is a feisty, highly educated and exciting character - as you'd expect! Will Cleo - marked and chosen at birth by the goddess Isis - prevail against the evil forces who would gain power? The background is authentic, as befits an author who has a wide knowledge of ancient history. The author explains that she has been able to use her imagination to fill in the gaps in Cleo's life, and she has done that to wonderful effect, giving us a story that illuminates the person Cleo became.

Phoenix Burning (Phoenix Series) by Bryony Pearce

Toby and Ayla have to infiltrate a sect of sun worshippers to steal the equipment their ships need. They enter a trial to be chosen as the Sun and the Moon, a position of great honour for the sect. As the trial commences, Toby and Ayla discover the true cost of failure. But there are other young couples who are equally desperate to win...Can Toby and Ayla survive days without sleep, hours sitting in the blistering sun and a deadly maze? They'll need to work together to win - their mission depends on it.

Star Struck (Flirty Dancing 4) by Jenny McLachlan

Flirty Dancing is a series of four books that follows the fortunes of four (ex) best friends, Bea, Betty, Kat and Pearl, with one taking the lead role in each book. In a very satisfying finale to the series we have the story of Pearl who is the 'bad girl' of the group - she drinks, she smokes, she swears - and she's mean to Bea and Betty. But she did fly halfway round the world to rescue Kat in Sunkissed, so we know that she is definitely a very good friend. Will Pearl get the lead in the school play? Now, when she really needs a friend, who will come to her rescue? Teen girls will fall in love with this series, with its highly realistic characters and well expressed emotions; these are real girls with real lives.

Black Arts (The Books of Pandemonium) by Andrew Prentice and Jonathan Weil

Elizabethan London is a city of contrasts where thieves and cutthroats mingle with the wealthy. When Jack picks the pocket of the wrong person at the Globe Theatre, he finds himself drawn into a dark and treacherous world. A band of Puritans, led by ruthless Nicholas Webb, has determined to clear London of witches and devil worship. Jack harbours a deep hatred for Nicholas Webb, who killed his mother, and pits himself against him, aided by a motley group of helpers. But dark things are happening - is Jack himself demon-possessed? The spirit of London is powerfully evoked, transporting the reader into a dark and dangerous world. Full of verve and vivacity, this is a rumbustious story that has the reader hooked from the first page; it's a hugely satisfying read.

Book Three: Part 1 The Dusk of Hope (The Elementia Chronicles, Book 3) by Sean Fay Wolfe

The inspiration for this (unofficial) series is the hugely popular Minecraft game, so there's a ready-made audience out there. This is the thrilling final instalment with Stan, Kat, Charlie and their friends taking on their most powerful foe yet - but first, they have to find their way back to each other. And just who is the mysterious figure who has appeared on the scene? Nail-biting tension will will keep readers hooked on the story. I would especially recommend it for reluctant readers who are Minecraft fans, as it's a great way to encourage them to read.

The Last Immortal by Alex Marlowe

Back in Victorian London, Luke's ambition is to join The Immortals - a supernatural crime-fighting squad, founded by his father Victor. But it all goes horribly wrong, and Luke is killed. 160 years later, in the modern world, Luke comes back to life, endowed with superhuman powers and fitted with modern upgrades. Sanakhte has returned and Luke must reunite the scattered Immortals. But to destroy Sanakhte, Luke must uncover a terrible secret hidden in his past.... Owing something to some other very popular fiction, nonetheless this has a wonderfully fresh voice and some brilliantly imagined characters and scenarios. It's a great start to a very promising series, full of tension and anticipation.

Waiting for Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill

Elektra is just an ordinary girl, propelled into a new world when she's discovered by an acting agent. But things don't turn out as she expects. It seems that actors are actually supposed to be multi-lingual, play seven instruments and be trained in a variety of circus skills. Will her break ever come? Things aren't any better in her private life - she's fallen out with her best friend, remains firmly in the friend-zone with her crush and her parents are driving her crazy. Just a typical teen life, then. What sets this book apart is the superb depiction of Elektra's character - written in the first person, teens will readily identify with Elektra and fall in love with her. She's true to life, her family is well portrayed, and there's plenty of humour to enliven the plot too. It's a great start to a series which promises to be a huge success. Interestingly, the authors are mother and daughter and this explains the way the book portrays such a positive family relationship.

Boy X by Dan Smith

If you want to know, in brief, just what a Chicken House book is all about, just turn to the back cover where they sum up each book in three words - Boy X is action - survival - terror. To me, terror is to the fore from the very start. Ash has woken in a sterile room, quite alone - but attached to a machine. Surprisingly, he can escape the room - but finds himself in a tropical jungle. His mum - a genetic scientist - has been imprisoned and infected with a deadly virus. Ash is the one who must save her and he sets out on a perilous journey across the jungle to find and rescue his mother. But he's changed... the machine was drugging him. Exciting, tense and well-paced, this is a gripping story which keeps the reader on tenterhooks right through to the cliff-hanger ending.

Eternity's Wheel (Interworld, Book 3) by Neil Gaiman and others

The Interworld series comes to a dramatic conclusion in the third of the trilogy. It took me a while to get into the story - I think this is definitely one where you need to start with Book 1 to really enjoy the series. Joey Harker is seeking out more of his fellow Walkers across the Altiverse, training them as fast as he can, in preparation for the looming threat of FrostNight. But even a solid team of recruits can’t prepare Joey for the ultimate showdown with InterWorld’s enemies, old and new. Joey faces an uphill task, and with death and danger all around, and one dire situation quickly following on the heels of the previous, he's the one everything depends on save InterWorld, the Multiverse, and everything in between. Joey definitely develops as a character and as a leader through the book. Magic, technology, time travel - there are many elements to the book and mostly, they are well interwoven to give an exciting story.

Darkest Night (Department 19, Book 5) by Will Hill

The final battle, the battle that could see the end of humanity, is nigh and it MUST be won. Those who have enjoyed this thriller of a series will have been eagerly awaiting the last instalment about the courageous members of Department 19 who have fought Dracula at every turn. The pressure has taken its toll, and at the worst time because Dracula is at full strength. In contrast, the Operators in Department 19 are at their lowest ebb; worst of all, they are not supporting each other. Beyond the confines of the Department, the world is stunned by the revelation that vampires are real. Violence and paranoia spread around the globe and, when it finally comes, Dracula’s opening move is more vicious than anyone could have imagined. It's not a book for the faint-hearted - it's full of horror and the reader is at no point certain of the outcome. Yes, it's fantasy but it has an edge of gritty reality that echoes some of the atrocities we know happen. It's one of these books that makes fans think 'Just one more chapter...'.

Those Were the Days by Terry Wogan

Meet Tom and learn about the wonderful characters he met on his journey from humble clerk to exalted bank manager (of the Cattle Market branch) - in Ireland, of course. The book links together an assorted collection of reminiscences as Tom looks back on his customers, many of whom have become his friends, and relates their tales. It's a light easy read, perfect for a cold winter afternoon or a sunny summer's day - whenever you want to relax and take some time out. A gentle and funny read.

Divergent (Divergent Trilogy, Book 1) by Veronica Roth

Chicago, post-apocalypse, is the setting for the dramatic and haunting Divergent trilogy. It's an epic work set in the world of Divergent, where society is divided into five factions – Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity and Erudite. When young people reach the age of 16, they must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives, based on a test. Unusually and dangerously, Tris finds herself a Divergent - true to more than one faction. Tris must decide whether to be true to herself or to her family; her choice surprises everyone. During their initiation, Tris and her fellow initiates undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them, Tris must determine who her friends really are – and whether she can trust the man who both threatens and protects her. She faces trials throughout the book and how she copes makes for a gripping, emotional and multi-faceted story which is highly popular with all fans of dystopian fiction.

Insurgent (Divergent, Book 2) by Veronica Roth

In this, the dark sequel to Divergent, Tris has survived a brutal attack on her former home and family but she has paid a terrible price. Wracked by grief and guilt, she becomes ever more reckless as she struggles to accept her new future. Yet if Tris wants to uncover the truth about her world, she must be stronger than ever… because more shocking choices and sacrifices lie ahead. To be honest, this is not a book which appeals to me personally, so it is hard to do it justice in a review. It's a tense and heart-racing novel abut a dystopian society where emnity is out-and-out, no holds barred and everyone out for themselves. Tris is a strong character but she has flaws and failings, in many ways she is old beyond her years yet in others immature. The story is softened by the love-story but still it remains tense throughout.

Allegiant (Divergent Trilogy, Book 3) by Veronica Roth

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered – fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So she is ready for a fresh start and grabs the chance to explore the world past the limits she's known. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. But - and this will come as no surprise to readers of the series so far - Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature – and of herself – while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love. As the conclusion of a trilogy, this is a powerful novel that embraces the new rather than simply tying up loose ends.

Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den (Simon Thorn 1) by Aimée Carter

12 year old Simon Thorn is an Animalgam - he has always known that he can talk to animals, but he has discovered that he can also change into an animal at will. He has kept the secret of being able to talk to animals, thinking that nobody would understand. But when his mum is kidnapped by a herd of terrifying rats, and he sets out to find her, Simon discovers the Animalgam Academy located underneath Central Park Zoo. There he learns about the fractured five kingdoms that make up this secret world - Mammals, Birds, Insects, Reptiles and Underwater. And - terrifyingly - he is the only one who can save them. It's a mesmerising story, fast-paced and with some excellently drawn characters, so vividly told that the reader shares Simon's feelings and thoughts throughout the book. Great news - it's the first in a five part series.

The River and the Book by Alison Croggon

This is a powerful and moving story about the exploitation of indigenous people by the First World. Endorsed by Amnesty International as contributing to a better understanding of human rights, this poetic coming-of-age story combines magical realism and fable. Simbala's village has two treasures: the River, which is both their road and their god; and the Book, which contains their history, their oracle and their soul. Simbala is a Keeper of the Book, the latest in a long line of women who can use it to find answers to the villagers' questions. As developers begin to poison the River on which the villagers rely, the Book predicts change. But this does not come in the form that they expect; it is the sympathetic foreigner who comes to the village who inflicts the greatest damage of all. The book has a powerful message and all the more so by being related by Simbala herself.

Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

This is a sensational debut novel that is bound to be much talked-about. “My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty nine and again four years later when he was twelve. The first time had nothing to do with me. The second time definitely did, but I would never even have been there if it hadn’t been for his ‘time machine’... Al Chaudhury travels back in time to 1984 in a frantic race against time to prevent a go-kart accident, and save his father’s life... Going back in time is no easy matter, even when you discover your father's tome machine. Al will need lies, theft, burglary, and even setting his school on fire to fulfil his quest. And then, of course, there's his pet hamster, Alan Shearer... Superb characters, brilliant dialogue and a fast-moving tense story come together to make an outstanding read. You'll laugh, you'll cry - but most of all you will be drawn in by the sheer brilliance of the storytelling.

Trickster by Tom Moorhouse

Meet Gabble, a young rat and his wild, beloved, but unpredictable brother, Ash. At the start of the book Ash tricks Gabble into going out with him on a 'name raid', a dangerous mission to earn a True Name, normally reserved for older rats. Gabble finds himself drawn into a perilous adventure, crossing boundaries, fighting with enemy rat packs, and eventually being forced to confront both his brother and himself in the most dramatic fashion.

Pick Your Poison (Ruby Redfort, Book 5) by Lauren Child

Ruby Redfort has taken her place in the hearts of teen readers just as the author's much-loved Clarice Bean has done for younger children. Ruby Redfort is a feisty up-to-the-minute teen, brought superbly to life by a talented author who knows just what her audience craves. In the fifth episode, there's plenty going on in Twinford: there are the snakes and the bivalves, but worse then them are the rumours. With so many twists and turns it’s hard to know who to trust, particularly when no one trusts you, how will Ruby Redfort navigate her way through safely? Of course, we all know she will... or will she? The many strands of the story knit toger=ther in a most satisfying way, but keep the reader guessing throughout as they try to solve the mysteries along with Ruby herself.

Arsene Lupin vs Sherlock Holmes (Alma Classics) by Maurice Leblanc

Two of the greatest fictional crime characters ever between the pages of one book - fabulous! Here we have two adventures which pit the gentleman thief Arsene Lupin against Sherlock Holmes, the world's most famous detective. In 'The Blonde Lady', Holmes must discover the identity of a mysterious female thief who is linked to Lupin, while in 'The Jewish Lamp' he finds out that the theft of a lamp containing a precious jewel conceals an astonishing secret. This work of classic detective fiction pits the brains of an aristocratic thief against the great detective - it's ironic take on the concept will delight all fans of detective stories.

The Rose Society: A Young Elites Novel by Marie Lu

Adelina is out for revenge; revenge on the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her. Apart from her sister, she is alone - Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends at the Dagger Society want to stop her thirst for vengeance. There is good in Adelina but she fights to release it because darkness is her existence. Given the character she is, it's hard (if not impossible) to warm to Adelina and for me to truly enjoy a book, I need to identify with the lead character. That's just a personal view though, and doesn't detract from the quality of the storytelling. If you like your fiction dark and compelling, then this will be a book for you. It's well constructed, with complex characters and a cleverly developed plot which leaves room for further development in the next book.

Girl Online: On Tour by Zoe Sugg

In the sequel Girl Online. Penny is off to Europe with her rock-star boyfriend, Noah, on his music tour. But things are not as fantastic as she had anticipated. Noah has little time for her in his busy schedule and without his support, she has to cope with his less-than-welcoming bandmates as well as threatening messages from jealous fans. Home life begins to seem more appealing, with her family, her best mate Elliott, and her blog. Is she prepared to give all this up for a hectic life on tour? Even though it's not a situation many girls will find themselves in, nevertheless, it's realistic and Penny's reactions are highly credible. A brilliant read for teens, right up to the minute. Zoe Sugg is a highly successful blogger and followers of her blog will thoroughly enjoy her forays into fiction, and it will make new fans for her blog as readers want to know more about the author of this book.

All Wrapped Up (Geek Girl Special, Book 1) by Holly Smale

This one will be high on many girls' Christmas wish lists! Harriet Manners, aka the hugely popular (with readers) Geek Girl knows a lot about Christmas... but this Christmas is extra special for Harriet, because four days ago she had her First Ever Kiss. Now she just needs to work out what's supposed to happen next... Geek Girl is a hugely popular character for teens; Holly Smale captures all the angst of the teen years and writes about it movingly, humorously and realistically. Harriet is a positive character and teens will readily identify with her feelings and actions. As always, there are plenty of laughs, plenty of surprises and a great story to enjoy.

Island by Nicky Singer

Urban teenager Cameron is horrified at the thought of spending a week on an uninhabited Arctic Island; but that's where he's headed, with his scientist mother. He's expecting ice and storms; he's not expecting 24-hour daylight and erupting graves! At first Cameron believes the explanations of his research scientist mother. But then he starts to find the secrets of the island and he begins to see, and hear, things that push him right to the edge of the possible. One of them is an Inuit girl. The other is a large white bear ... It's a superbly told story, lyrical, emotive and descriptive. It shows how we are all, wherever we live, interconnected and affected by things that take place elsewhere. Thought-provoking and compelling, this is a book to savour and to ponder over.

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

A beautiful book, perfectly befitting the beautiful story-telling. A rich purple dust cover, golden patterns on the page edges and on the cover and a purple bookmark - the scene is set. Lo-Melkhiin - a formidable king - arrives at the storyteller's desert home. Already he has killed hundreds and she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife - and certain death. So she sacrifices herself - leaving home and family behind to live with a fearful man. But she survives; survives through the power of her storytelling. Her tales grow more and more powerful; a greater, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king . . . if only she can stop her heart from falling for a monster. Set against a harsh desert backdrop, A Thousand Nights by E K Johnston is an evocative tale of love, mystery and magic that would not feel out of place if Scheherazade herself were telling it. It is, of course, loosely based on 1001 Nights. Fantasy and a magical feel all vividly related.

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold

Rudger is Amanda's best friend - an imaginary best friend which is a common scenario with children and this story conjures up the beauty and imagination of such a friendship. But the story takes a sinister turn when Mr Bunting turns up - Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries and he's found out about Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn't there survive without a friend to dream him up? A humorous yet somewhat disquieting read which is a celebration of the imagination, the book is stunningly illustrated with atmospheric illustrations by Emily Gravett. The characters - real and imaginary - are excellently drawn with superb touches of humour and the friendship between Amanda and Rudger is touchingly depicted. The story pulls you in and you just have to finish it to see what happens.

Monster by C J Skuse

The Beast of Bathory is the stuff of legend at posh boarding school Bathory - and it appears to 16 year old Nash (Natasha) during a game of netball; its power compels her to want to go towards it. Initially, the story seems like a grown-up version of an Enid Blyton boarding school story, but we are soon disabused of that notion as it turns into a dramatic, page-turning thriller. When Nash's brother disappears, she finds herself trapped at Bathory with the collection of misfits who are unable to get home. Soon, they are literally trapped and the tension mounts - is the beast real or imaginary? Strong echoes of Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles abound in the book, but this is no feeble imitation - it's a strong story in its own right, which builds tension throughout. Dramatic and compelling, this is a gripping page turner with exceptional story-telling, superb characterisation and a dramatic setting, which will keep the reader engaged to the suitably dramatic conclusion. An exceptional read.

Star Teacher by Jack Sheffield

This is the ninth in the engaging series about Ragley village school and its dedicated headteacher. As ever, the reader is immediately immersed in the world of the school and its wider community. We meet old friends and make new ones and all the while we are treated to a nostalgic journey back to 1985. Imagine a world where Microsoft Office was a novelty and goings-on of Dynasty were the talk of the next day after every episode. The research is meticulous and the book will really hit the mark with all of us who remember (if not as vividly!) the 1980s. Changes are afoot. Ruby the caretaker finds romance, and retirement looms for Vera the secretary - the school won't be the same without her unflappable presence. As always, it's a great read with characters who are really brought to life and who you really feel you know well. The village and its environs are equally well depicted. There is, of course, a cliffhanger of an ending which will have you waiting eagerly for the next instalment - long may they keep coming!

Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic by Jason Segel

In this scary trilogy, of which this is the second book, it's down to Charlie and his friends to save the town. The nightmares are still going strong, so get ready to be frightened (just a little bit)... The nightmares stopped when Charlie escaped from Netherworld, the land of nightmares, but he's still anxious about what is going on. His creepy stepmother's (is she a witch?) plant store is losing customers as everyone heads to the town of Orville Falls... a town that's full of zombies. Could it be that the inhabitants of the town are also starting to lose sleep? There's only one certainty - things are going to get weird again. It's a perfect read for 10 to 12 year olds who like their stories scary but not terrifying. Charlie's a great character, one who learns to tackle his fears and face up to them; the book has touches of humour which add to the good read.

Lockwood & Co: The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud

Lockwood & Co. might be the smallest Psychic Detection Agency in London, but its three exceptional agents more than compensate for its size. Lockwood, Lucy and George get results, and we've seen that through the earlier books in the series. An outbreak of ghostly phenomena is terrifying the residents of Chelsea - but why, when Scotland Yard is throwing all its resources at the mystery, have Lockwood & Co been excluded? They will need to put aside their personal differences for long enough to march into action, though. The plot twists and turns and the vivid language sets the scene wonderfully. Rich and atmospheric, with a superb cast of characters, this is an exceptional series which will grip the attention of its readers and have them yearning for more .

The Midnight Carnival: Step right up, don't be shy by Erika McGann

The residents of Dunbridge wake to find that a carnival has appeared on the green overnight. Not unusual you may think - but, despite the busy atmosphere, there's something definitely odd... the Ferris wheel is rusted and creaking, the colours of the tent have dulled with age, and even the performers’ costumes are tattered and old-fashioned. Young witches Grace and her friends find themselves drawn into the strange world - and split apart by a strange enchantment. They learn that the carnival holds a dark secret; a curse that has kept them frozen in their current state for decades. But with help from Ms Lemon, the girls discover what the curse is and how to break it. This magical fantasy really drew me in, with believable characters and a mystery that I wanted to solve. Well-written and totally engrossing.

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass) by Sarah J. Maas

The tension is still building in this dramatic and action-packed series, now onto book four. Celaena has returned to Rifthold, where evil is rife, determined to take revenge on those who destroyed her past life. Reconciled to her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen, she is ready to claim her throne. Aelin must stay hidden beneath her assassin's hood and draw on her mortal strength as Celaena to prevent the King of Adarlan from tearing her world apart. Only then can she fight for her people; the people who are close to her heart. Vivid and dramatic, the fantasy world is superbly depicted and the characters are distinctive and powerful. A superb series for fans of fantasy novels, only truly appreciated when read in sequence.

Pop Girl by Tallia Storm

This debut novel is based on the author's own experiences in the music world; there is a strong sense of reality to the story, brought about by this insider view. Singing is Storm's whole life and when she is told she is going on holiday to Hawaii instead of entering a singing competition, she is devastated. But things seem to turn around when, on holiday, Storm meets a local band who need a singer to record their demo. Storm steps in and it seems her dreams will come true. It's not to be, though - when the band introduce their singer, to her shock, it's not her. Perfect for early teens, this is engrossing and a good read.

All That Glitters (Geek Girl, Book 4) by Holly Smale

The fourth book in the award-winning Geek Girl series finds the stories going from strength to strength - please, if you haven't read the others, do read them in order; I promise it's well worth the wait to get to this one. I like Harriet more as the series progresses and love the humour of the books, which are suitable for all teen girls. Moving away somewhat from the modelling theme, this book focuses on school life. Harriet has high hopes for the new school year she’s a Sixth Former now, and things are going to be different... or are they? She hopes to make like-minded friends but this doesn't seem as easy as she hoped; Nat has fallen in love at college and Toby is preoccupied with a Top Secret project, so things aren't as she had hoped. It's clever, it's funny and, best of all, it's totally believable

Through My Eyes: Emilio by Sophie Masson

The Through My Eyes series are accounts of children who live in contemporary conflict zones. The books really show what life is like and give an excellent picture for those of us who live in peace in a war zone. Emilio Garcia Lopez is a high school student in Mexico. When he opens the door to find his police-officer cousin Juanita, flanked by a tall man in the uniform of the Federal Police, Emilio's nightmare has just begun. His mother has been kidnapped in broad daylight from a hotel carpark by unidentified criminals who appear have mistaken her for a wealthy businesswoman. This action-packed story is full of suspense as Emilio sets out to track down his mother; it gives a vivid insight into life in Mexico and the problems caused by drugs.

The Swarm Descends (Ferals, Book 2) by Jacob Grey

Caw is a boy who can talk to crows. After the Spinning Man was banished to the Land of the Dead in an epic struggle between good and evil Ferals, Caw’s life has become safer, free of the darkness that had stalked Blackstone for so long. But there’s a new villain in town – and the Mother of Flies will stop at nothing to make crime, corruption and chaos descend once more. Caw must use every ounce of courage, and every friend he can find, to face-off against some truly terrifying Ferals. Dark family secrets will be revealed – and he will learn to be very careful about who to trust. This fast-paced fantasy action story will grip readers with its vivid descriptions and pacy action.

A Hollow in the Hills: Try to outrun the fear by Ruth Frances Long

Following on from A Crack in Everything, this imaginative story follows Izzy, who is still coming to terms with her new-found mystical powers. When an ancient and forbidden power is unleashed, Izzy must prevent a war from engulfing Dublin and the fae realm of Dubh Linn. But by refusing to sacrifice Jinx – fae warrior and her ‘not-really-ex’ – Izzy sets in motion a chain of events which will see them hunted across the city and into the hills where she'll face the greatest challenge of all. Brilliantly drawn characters and a tightly knit plot combine to make an exhilarating read.

The Blackthorn Key (The Blackthorn series) by Kevin Sands

A stunning cover - matt black with an embossed golden key - sets the scene for an excellent historical novel. So many books for young people take us forward in time, yet we have a rich resource of history just waiting to be tapped in to, and this novel makes the most of a dramatic period in British history. It's London in 1665, and 14 year old Christopher Rowe is apprentice to master apothecary Benedict Blackthorn. But danger lurks, in the form of the Cult of the Archangel who are murdering apothecaries. The danger is close to home - the trail leads back to Christopher's master. The reader is drawn into this exciting story and has the chance to crack the codes and unravel the mystery. A stunning debut novel, dramatically written and superbly plotted.

Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo

Michael Morpurgo brings us another emotional roller-coaster of a story set in the time of the First World War. He returns, too, to one of his favourite settings - the Isles of Scilly, which he portrays so evocatively. It's May, 1915, and Alfie and his fisherman father have found a girl on an uninhabited island in the Scillies. She has lost her memory and can say only one word - Lucy. Is she a mermaid, the victim of a German U-boat, or maybe a German spy? Lucy loves music and moonlight, and when she listens to the gramophone that the glimmers of the girl she once was begin to appear. The islanders are a suspicious and superstitious people and Alfie and Lucy are under threat. Then a new thread starts - Merry, a girl boarding a great ship for a perilous journey across the ocean - and gradually things fall into place. Movingly told, we gradually get to know Lucy as the family lovingly nurses her back to health - and a great sadness emerges.

Circles of Stone (The Mirror Chronicles) by Ian Johnstone

This is the second mesmerising volume in an epic fantasy trilogy. Full of conviction, this powerful story moves between two worlds; a world of science and a world of magic.  As the dark lord Thoth raises a monstrous army, Sylas and Naeo, who met in the first book, discover that the new-found power which makes them near-invincible could also be their undoing. Travelling to each other's worlds, Sylas longs to find his mother, and Naeo her father. So begins a mirrored quest that will bring Naeo into our world of science and take Sylas deep into the magic of the Other. They both hope to find the one the other loves, but also the ultimate truth: of our broken worlds and divided souls, of prophecy and of Sylas and Naeo’s wondrous power. But it’s a race against time to find out why the worlds fell apart and to defeat Thoth’s creatures who gather at the gateways between our worlds – at the ancient circles of stone. War is coming and unless Sylas and Naeo can stop it, it may destroy us all. This is a breathtaking classic fantasy series frightening in places. Please - read the stories in sequence.

Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelto

Are you feeling brave? Do you dare to open the covers of this book? Are you with Jack as he stands in the dark on the landing of the old house, debating whether or not to go in? In a candle-lit room, there are 13 chairs; seated are 12 ghostly storytellers, waiting to begin. Come in! Take your place. We have been expecting you. Do you dare to listen to our stories? Do you dare to tell your own? Cleverly constructed, these stories, guaranteed to send shivers down your spine, are linked together by the setting. Wonderfully varied and excellently told, with distinctive voices, this is not one for reading under the bedcovers!

The Last Ever After (The School for Good and Evil, Book 3) by Soman Chainani

This is the final title in the fantasy book trilogy. The series is set in a world where every four years two children are taken to attend a school where fairy tale heroes and villains are made. The first two books are The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, Book 1) and A World Without Princes (The School for Good and Evil, Book 2). Erstwhile best friends Agatha and Sophie had their friendship shattered, each in the arms of a boy, Good with Good, Evil with Evil. Can their friendship be reignited? Now Evil has taken over and the villains of the past have come back to change their tales and turn the world of Good and Evil upside down. With Evers being murdered and Nevers reigning supreme, it's up to the girls to restore the balance; will their friendship let this happen? The story twists and turns, keeping the reader fully engaged throughout. A enchanting blend of magic, romance and humour, this has been a remarkable series - a series which needs to be started from the beginning to gain full understanding. This final story brings the strands together and leaves the reader satisfied that all the ends have been tied up. Unputdownable. Watch the YouTube trailer.

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

Three teens and their heartfelt stories. SEBBY seems to carry sunlight around with him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and his best friend Mira together craft a magic world. MIRA is starting afresh at St Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can't get out of bed for days on end. JEREMY is the painfully shy art nerd at St. Francis who's been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira's world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don't understand their quest to live for the impossible.

Hide and Seek (Jess Tennant 3) by Jane Casey

Port Sentinel is a beautiful seaside tourist trap, but in the short time Jess Tennant has lived there, it has seen its fair share of tragedy. And Jess keeps getting caught up in other people's tragedies. A schoolgirl from the town goes missing, leaving her diary behind and a lot of unanswered questions. Has she run away from her unhappy home or is there something much more sinister going on? And can Jess find her before it's too late? Jess is a strong character who faces issues in her own life yet finds time to help those in need. The story shows a real insight into the lives and emotions of teens, even though most teens won't face the adventures Jess does!

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

This richly woven tapestry of a novel blends together the people and events of 1980s' Ireland in a stunning way. Digging for peat in the mountain with his Uncle Tally, Fergus finds the body of a child; it looks like she's been murdered. Beset by all manner of problems - problems far beyond what a normal teen experiences - Fergus tries to make sense of the mad world around him - his brother on hunger-strike in prison, his growing feelings for Cora, his parents arguing over the Troubles, and him in it up to the neck, blackmailed into acting as courier to God knows what, a little voice comes to him in his dreams, and the mystery of the bog child unfurls. Bog Child is an astonishing novel exploring the sacrifices made in the name of peace, and the unflinching strength of the human spirit.

Sunkissed by Jenny McLachlan

This is the third in Jenny Mclachlan's light-hearted and humorous books about a group of (ex-) best friends. This summer read tells the story of Kat, whose family are sending her to Sweden for the summer. Without her props of friends, and a mobile can Kat make it on her own? It's a revealing look at discovering a true identity, away from what Kat thinks people want her to be. Of course, there's a love interest on the scene, in the form of super-fit Swede Leo. What is making Kat different - is it being true to herself or is it the beautiful setting? You'll have to read this perceptive and entertaining novel and make up your own mind!

The Butterfly Shell by Maureen White

Marie loves reading, hates Rachel and her gang, The Secret Six, and is even unsure about Stella, her only friend, who is definitely somewhat odd. Marie's first year at secondary school has started off badly - she is being bullied at school and her nights are haunted by ghostly cries at night; cries of her dead baby sister. Marie's feelings are beautifully and sensitively conveyed; the reader really feels part of the story and sympathises throughout as Marie faces up to her problems and finally finds resolution.

Black Waters (Strong Winds) by Julia Jones

I have thoroughly enjoyed the earlier books in this series so was delighted when Julia asked me to review the latest, fifth in the series. Meeting with strong racial prejudice and having made an enemy, Xanthe Ribiero is in hiding. The racism theme is sensitively handled. She and has taken refuge on a redundant lightship in the Essex marshes, planning to teach a group of children to sail. But why, in this seemingly idyllic setting, are the children fearful? The reason is found in the past in this gripping and atmospheric novel. It reads well as a stand-alone but I do recommend you read the whole excellent series; to me, these are books for lovers of Arthur Ransome stories (comparisions between Xanthe and Nancy Blackett are almost inevitable), but suitable for slightly older readers who enjoy traditional adventure stories. A really satisfying read with strong characters, especially Xanthe, and an authentic sea and sailing background which conveys a real love for boats.

One by Sarah Crossan

This is a quite amazing book, extraordinarily written entirely in free verse; it is moving, sensitive and touching. It is the story of Grace and Tippi who are twins - conjoined twins. Their lives are about to change. No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world - a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love? But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined. Before I read this, I would have definitely have said 'no' to a book in free verse, but so well-crafted is this that the story flows seamlessly, drawing you in and captivating you. Read it slowly, savour it and ponder on its message - what does it mean to want and have a soulmate?

Clariel by Garth Nix

Sixteen-year-old Clariel feels confined in the city of Belisaere, missing the freedom of the forests of Estwael. Her life seems no longer her own - everyone expects her to do as they say; freedom seems a thing of the past. The city itself seems in danger as the ancient rules lose their sway and a dangerous Free Magic creature roams loose in the city. This is Clariel's chance to prove herself and to escape - but she must act fast. Things spiral out of control and she must accept from an unlikely direction - but help comes at a price.... Garth Nix manages to evoke a fantasy world which is highly believable. Fans of the Old Kingdom will love this book for the insight it gives; those who are not familiar with the earlier books may find it harder to appreciate. This is, though, a highly satisfying read which rounds out the previously published stories. #clariel; @HotKeyBooks; @GarthNix

Look into my eyes (Ruby Redfort, Book 1) by Lauren Child

Ruby is always up for a challenge and in this, the first book in this captivating series, we find out how her life as an agent began. Along with her sidekick butler, Hitch, they foil crimes and get into difficult situations with evil villains, but always keep their cool. 13 year old Ruby Redfort has been asked to become a secret code-cracker for a secret agency, Spectrum, the most secret of them all. Never one to sit back when chances offer, Ruby soon finds herself in the thick of an exciting adventure. I find myself totally engrossed by Ruby's adventures; they are engaging and action-packed and you just have to keep reading one more chapter... then one more... and then the next book...

Catch Your Death (Ruby Redfort, Book 3) by Lauren Child

Tigers are roaming the streets of Twinford, and it looks like someone has deliberately released some very rare and very dangerous animals. Things are going to get wild – and Ruby is going to get badly lost in the wilderness. The question is: will she ever make it out alive? Well, as always, you wouldn’t want to bet against her... Witty and engaging, these books will appeal to younger readers as well and even adults will enjoy trying to crack the codes, so these make great books to share with your children and to get you all thinking. Ruby is a strong and well-developed character and the books contain plenty of touches of humour to lighten what are quite meaty books - but don't be put off; they are well worth the effort!

Ruby Redfort - Take Your Last Breath (Ruby Redfort, Book 4) by Lauren Child

Charismatic Ruby Redfort burst onto the scene in Look Into My Eyes, having first appeared in the hugely successful Clarice Bean stories. There are strange goings-on in Twinford - well, at sea anyway... Can Ruby and her spy agency crack the case of the Twinford pirates avoid the clutches of a vile sea monster and outwit the evil Count von Viscount? Another story packed with humour, fun, friendship and mystery which will delight fans of the first book. Now the books have been reissued with eye-catching new covers, making a great series to collect. To date, 141,000 copies have been sold, testament to the huge popularity of this engaging character - and to the excellent story-telling of Lauren Child.

Bird by Crystal Chan

12 year old Jewel never knew her brother John but her whole life is affected by him, by his death. For he died on the day she was born; died because Grandpa kept telling him he could fly like a bird; died because he jumped off a cliff. Grandpa has never spoken since. Everything changes when one night, on her birthday, Jewel found a strange boy sitting in her oak tree. His name is John. She finds a great affinity with John and the development of the relationship is movingly portrayed as jewel finally finds a listening ear - something that has been sadly missing from her life. An emotional story, beautifully told in the first person by Jewel.

The Edge Chronicles 12: Doombringer: Second Book of Cade by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

This epic fantasy series just keeps going and going, garnering new fans all the time and always keeping up the high quality, originality and invention. Cade Quarter is building a new life for himself in the wild of the Farrow Ridges, miles away from civilization - and from the enemies who are seeking him. But when his new home is threatened by villainous mire-pearlers, Cade and his friends must find a way to defend the land they love. All lovers of fantasy will lap these stories up and will always eagerly anticipate the next in the series; how long can the authors keep this going?

The Snake Trap (Travis Delaney Investigates) by Kevin Brooks

Travis Delaney's parents were killed and he is on a mission to find the murderers. Having escaped from the hands of a criminal overlord, Travis thinks he is on track to solve the mystery - but can he trust those around him or is there an enemy in the camp? Travis finds himself trapped in an armed face-off in the offices of Delaney & Co, private investigators and abducted. His fellow captive Winston, the rogue security officer who Travis believes is responsible for his parents' death. Travis faces the hardest dilemma of all - his life or that of one he loves? An action-packed story with a hero who is not perfect but whose appeal is all the greater for that. This is the first time I have come across this series - as so often happens, I wish I had read the previous books first.

Daniel X: Lights Out: (Daniel X 6) by James Patterson

This has been a thrilling series, now brought to a triumphant conclusion. Not read the other books? Then you really do need to read them first or you will lose out. Aline-hunting Daniel X is near the end of his quest. It's time to face the biggest threat in the galaxy: The Prayer – the beast that brutally murdered his parents long ago. But even with his incredible ability to create almost anything, Daniel will have to push his powers beyond the brink in order to bring down a monster that has the powers of a god. Daniel has devoted his life to following his father's mission - to hunt out wanted aliens. His quest has been spell-binding and this is a worthy conclusion.

Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes

Jack Mattingly is a genius with an IQ of 170 who speaks fluent Mandarin and Latin. He can even calculate the square root of 1,673,549 in his head. But he doesn't have the answers to everything - when his parents' car is hi-jacked, with him inside it, for once he's as clueless as the rest of us. Th's is no ordinary hi-jacker though... Jack's life takes a completely new turn in this fast paced exciting adventure. The police are on the trail but how long before they catch up with Jack and his surprising abductor? Great story-telling, with plenty of tension to grab and hold the attention of the reader.

The Mark of Cain by Lindsey Barraclough

Four centuries separate the events of this chilling ghost story. 1567 -  abandoned as a baby, Aphra is brought up by witches and learns (or was she born knowing?) the dark craft. Finding herself homeless, she is feared by all around her - until she meets the man they call Long Lankin the leper who helps her seek revenge. 1962 Cora is back in Bryers Guerdon in the manor house her aunt left to her... you'll need to read Long Larkin for the background to this. When restoration work to take place at Guerdon Hall, evil from long ago is disturbed and the spirit of Aphra is roused. Dark and terrifying, with strong characters whose excellent portrayal just makes the horror more real.

Arena 13 (Arena 13 Trilogy 1) by Joseph Delaney

Arena 13. It's where people go to fight. And to die. Arena 13. Leif wants to be the best fighter there but in Hob, he faces a fearsome adversary. Hob, an evil being who delights in torturing people, wants to display his devastating power by challenging an Arena 13 combatant in a fight to the death whenever he chooses. Leif and Hob have history - Hob destroyed Leif's family and Leif is set on revenge. Will his revenge lead to death? With all the excitement we have come to expect from this author, this is another dramatic and exhilarating novel to delight his legions of fans.

The Changeling by Helen Falconer

Aoife is shocked to find out that the people who have brought her up are not her real parents; their child was stolen by the fairies leaving Aoife, a changeling in her place. From a normal teenage life, Aoife gradually develops mysterious powers - and that's when her parents tell her the truth. Lonely and bewildered, Aoife turns to Shay, the taciturn farmer’s son who she thinks might believe her story. They embark on a dangerous mission, deep into the underworld. Their preconceptions are challenged and changes everything they thought they knew about fairies. Dramatic and descriptive, the book drew me in from the start, had me anxious for Aoife to be vindicated and for people to understand her. The West of Ireland, with all its brooding mystery and ancient legends in the perfect setting, perfectly realised. This is the first in a trilogy.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

I love Sophie Kinsella's adult novels, so I have been eagerly awaiting her foray into teen fiction - and I wasn't disappointed. The book starts off with a gripping 'will she, won't she?' moment and the pace and tension keep going. Audrey suffers from serious depression and this is her story, told in her own words, from the time her brother's friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again and gives her the courage to face the things she thought impossible. Well-written characters and a superbly supportive (and lively- modern-day family, this is a gripping read. This is thought-provoking, empathetic and ultimately uplifting; highly recommended, especially for anyone who suffers or knows someone who suffers from depression.

Clariel by Garth Nix

Sixteen-year-old Clariel feels confined in the city of Belisaere, missing the freedom the forests of Estwael. Her life seems no longer her own - everyone expects her to do as they say; freedom seems a thing of the past. The city itself seems in danger as the ancient rules lose their sway and a dangerous Free Magic creature roams loose in the city. This is Clariel's chance to prove herself and to escape - but she must act fast. Things spiral out of control and she must accept from an unlikely direction - but help comes at a price....  Garth Nix manages to evoke a fantasy world which is highly believable. Fans of the Old Kingdom will love this book for the insight it gives; those who are not familiar with the earlier books may find it harder to appreciate. This is, though, a highly satisfying read which rounds out the previously published stories.

The Secret Throne (The Queen of Dreams) by Peter F. Hamilton

Siblings Taggie and Jemima are just ordinary girls until... a white squirrel wearing purple glasses comes into their lives. It turns out that their dad is far from ordinary - he is an otherworldly prince in exile, and the land he should be ruling, the First Realm, has been overthrown by the King of Night. It's up to the sisters to find a way to get from one world to another to save their father - and not just their father. Exciting and grippingly written with plenty of twists and turns, this is a great start to the trilogy.

Silver Skin by Joan Lennon

This is a wonderful evocation of ancient life; life in Skara Brae, Orkney, towards the end of the Stone Age. The islanders are superstitious, prone to fear and dependent on natural cycles. The sun is dying, storms are battering the coast and people fear the end of the world so when Rab crawls out of the sea wearing the remains of his Silver Skin, he throws the islanders into confusion. Opinions are divided. Who is he? Why has he come? Rab is from another world, thousands of years hence. He was on a study trip but finds himself hurled back in time, injured and in danger. He will need to call on all his strength. Almost poetic in its writing, this is a brilliant blend of ancient and modern with characters who are perfectly of their time.

My Name's Not Friday by Jon Walter

Right from the start, you just know this is going to be a haunting tale that will stay in your mind. "I know that I'm with God. He's with me in the darkness." Sold into slavery, much of the story is set in a cotton plantation where, despite the cruel harsh conditions, Samuel/Friday is determined to be educated. Set in the dramatic time of the American Civil War, Samuel is an amazing character; renamed as Friday when sold into slavery, he succeeds in never losing his identity; an identity he reclaims when he finally escapes. This amazing story is testament to the courage and determination of an indomitable human spirit. Samuel never loses hope; never loses faith in this compelling narrative.

It's About Love by Steven Camden

He’s Luke. She’s Leia. Just like in Star Wars. Just like they’re made for each other. Same film studies course, different backgrounds, different ends of town. Only this isn’t a film. This is real life. This is where monsters from the past come back to take revenge. This is where you are sometimes the monster. And where the things we build to protect us, can end up doing the most harm…

In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll

The beautiful cover gives a strong hint about this book - it speaks of mystery and other-worldliness. Alice has been sent off to her grandmother's house while her brother has a heart transplant. Alice hates being with her grandmother, who even threatens the one thing Alice likes about being with her - the very special Darkling Wood at the end of her garden. Alice feels at home there, and she makes a friend - but who is Flo? Nobody seems to have heard of her... Alice struggles to separate fact from fantasy - but she must do so if she is to save the wood.

Nest by Esther Ehrlich

Naomi (Chirp) Orenstein and her family live an idyllic life on Cape Cod, surrounded by sandy beaches, and with all the freedom she wants. But their happy family life is devastated when Chirp’s mum is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Only birdwatching brings Chirp comfort, and her friendship with Joey. Together, they live in a fantasy world - but reality cannot be avoided forever. The book covers many issues, some of them disturbing; on the whole they are handled sensitively but I felt the fact that the book is set back in 1972 needs to be taken into account when reading as attitudes have changed; of course, we do this with historical novels but this is relatively recent. It's a book that gives a real insight into pain and suffering, leaving the reader pondering after.

Phoenix Rising (Phoenix Series) by Bryony Pearce

Set in the future - a future compellingly introduced by some intriguing headlines and memos, we meet enemies on their pirate ships. Toby can't remember a time when he and his father have not been on the run. The Phoenix, a pirate ship has become their home kept afloat only by what they can scavenge from the surrounding seas. Their enemies are the crew of the Banshee whose sole aim is to hunt and destroy The Phoenix. Now they are frighteningly close... Ayla has spent her whole life fighting - preparing for the moment when the Banshee will face its ultimate enemy. Toby has had enough - can he turn an old feud into a new alliance? Toby faces hard choices in this action-packed adventure - a real page-turner.

Great Fire by Jon Chant

This enthralling book, which travels back in time to the time of the Great Fire of London, has two powerful main characters plus a host of baddies. Esteban Fawkes is a young sorcerer who specialises in time magic, otherwise known as Chronomancy; his friend Danny is a Conjurer who can summon supernatural beings. Danny goes missing just as a raging fire threatens to engulf London. Aided by a bystander called Connie, Esteban must travel back to Pudding Lane in 1666 and battle the dark forces that are threatening the city. This is no comforting tale of wizardry - it has a dark side and a gritty realism. Wonderfully atmospheric and displaying an in-depth knowledge of the 17th century city, this authentically set book is perfect as the background to history studies - I love to encourage pupils to explore good fiction set in the period they are studying; it gives real atmosphere to their studies.

The Black Reckoning: The Books of Beginning 3 by John Stephens

This is the final instalment in the dramatic Books of Beginning series. Emma, Michael and Kate are racing against time and must complete three tasks. They must find their parents; defeat the evil Dire Magnus; and locate the final Book of Beginning. Once all three books are united, their power will be unstoppable. Emma, the only one who can master the Book of Death embarks on a perilous journey to the land of the dead, and faces terrifying monsters and ghosts. As the fabric of time begins to fray, she becomes the final piece of an extraordinary puzzle. A compelling fantasy, well written and one which has really developed through the trilogy.

Waterfall by Lauren Kate

I don't want to give away the ending of Teardrop, the first in this absorbing trilogy - you really should read that first to get fully engaged with the plot. The world is flooded - flooded by tears; Eureka's tears.Can Eureka stop Atlas, the wicked king of Atlantis? Eureka's emotions make her vulnerable to his evil designs and she must find the power from within to fight his machinations - and perhaps lose all she holds dear. What comes through powerfully is love; love not just between Eureka and Ander but also the love Eureka has for her whole family. A magical and creative story with brilliantly depicted characters. How will it all end? Unexpectedly!

The Disappearing Children (Prime Minister Father & Son) by Lars Joachim Grimstad

Finn's father is, unexpectedly, Prime Minister of Norway, but until recently, he was a taxi driver. We all know that taxi drivers hear a great deal about what people want and how they would change the world - so Finn's father puts his knowledge to use and his More Party are voted in power against all the odds! But things are turning out very strangely for Finn - a dictator from far away has given him a strange new brother, and then all is not well in Finn s new surroundings. His newly-acquired brother (a gift from a dictator in a faraway land) is acting suspiciously, and then children in Finn s class start to disappear... This is a book which crosses the age barriers - adults will appreciate the political satire whilst children and teens will thoroughly enjoy the witty humour and unlikely situations.

The Almost King (Take Back the Skies 2) by Lucy Saxon

The four Vasin brothers have their lives mapped out for them - but Aleks doesn't want to work in his father's shop. Feeling inadequate among his family, he bravely sets out on his own, heading for Rudavin and signing up for the army. He finds himself committed to a wicked and brutal world and, unable to tolerate it, escapes to start a new life. Finally, Aleks gets his chance to prove himself... if he can escape his past. Set in a fantasy world which is highly credible and descriptively portrayed, this exciting page-turner of an adventure grabs the reader.

Alexander's Army (The Unicorne Files) by Chris D'Lacey

Searching for his father, 14 year old Michael Malone is drawn into the UNICORNE agency. After a successful assignment, he is given another unexplained mystery to solve. When UNICORNE detect strange goings-on in a comic book shop, Michael is sent to investigate - but who can he trust? And who is his enemy? An invisible army has come to life, led by a menacing maniac, but is there danger within as well? From the paranormal and back to everyday life, this is cleverly interwoven fiction which draws you in and with a very likeable hero at its heart, it will appeal to adventure and fantasy lovers.

The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

Action and adventure, good versus evil, adventurous children and reliable adults come together to make a page-turner of a read. The Luck Uglies were beyond the law - a name filled with dread. But did they ever exist? Rye wonders... On the night of the Black Moon, a mysterious stranger known only as Harmless, steps from the shadows to save Rye’s life and Rye learns that sometimes it takes a villain to save you from the monsters. An engaging mix of legend and fantasy, set in a shadowy world which is strangely timeless, peopled with some very well depicted and engaging characters - Rye particularly appealed to me with her dogged determination to find answers. A great start to a new trilogy.

The Dying of the Light (Skulduggery Pleasant, Book 9) by Derek Landy

Fans of this epic series will be desolated to know this, the ninth book, is the last. The War of the Sanctuaries has been won but only at the expense of lives. Following the loss of Valkyrie Cain, Skulduggery Pleasant must use any and all means to track down and stop Darquesse before she turns the world into a charred, lifeless cinder. To do so, he draws together a team of soldiers, monster hunters, killers, criminals… and Valkyrie’s own murderous reflection. The war may be over, but the final battle is about to begin. And not everyone gets out of here alive. The reader is positively raced through the book - and you wouldn't want it any other way, as the suspense could just be too much!

Shadow Scale (Seraphina) by Rachel Hartman

In this gripping sequel, Seraphina, half dragon, half human, is travelling the Southlands in search of the other half-breeds to help in the war effort - but her arch-enemy Jannoula has the same idea. The dragon General Comonot and his Loyalists are fighting against the upstart Old Guard - with the fate of Goredd and the other human countries hanging in the balance. The story is a complex interweaving of different cultures and characters which meld together to make a truly satisfying read, breathtaking in its realism and portrayal of a fantasy world which almost seems real, so detailed are the descriptions and so believable the characters, good and evil. Lovers of fantasy will be in their element with this book.

Itchcraft by Simon Mayo

Itchingham Lofte is a boy on a mission - a mission which sets him against deadly enemies. He has already had enough excitement to last him a lifetime, but there's plenty more to come. In this exciting adventure, a school trip to Spain ends in exploding currency and rioting locals, he knows that he has to continue to look for answers. Itch knows the lives of those closest to him are at risk. He must track down a deadly enemy who will stop at nothing to take his vengeance... An exciting and fast-paced story which will engross the reader whilst leaving him better informed about chemistry and its wonders by the end

The Casebooks of Captain Holloway: The Disappearance of Tom Pile by Ian Beck

This riveting book takes the reader from 1900 when a young boy disappears without trace and on 40 years to a time when villagers claim to see mysterious lights above their village of Litton Cheney. Can the two occurences be linked? Corporal Jack Carmody is sent to investigate; The villagers suspect German bombers overhead, but Carmody knows there's something far more intriguing going on. When a terrified boy appears in the graveyard, convinced it's the year 1900, it's up to Carmody and his boss - Captain Holloway - to uncover the truth. Told through a fascinating blend of narrative intermingled with contemporary accounts, this unputdownable book is superbly told and will have the reader desperate to find the answer to the intriguing mystery at its heart. It's unusual, very different and well worth a read. Superbly atmospheric illustrations too.

The Casebooks of Captain Holloway: The Disappearance of Tom Pile by Ian Beck

This riveting book takes the reader from 1900 when a young boy disappears without trace and on 40 years to a time when villagers claim to see mysterious lights above their village of Litton Cheney. Can the two occurences be linked? Corporal Jack Carmody is sent to investigate; The villagers suspect German bombers overhead, but Carmody knows there's something far more intriguing going on. When a terrified boy appears in the graveyard, convinced it's the year 1900, it's up to Carmody and his boss - Captain Holloway - to uncover the truth. Told through a fascinating blend of narrative intermingled with contemporary accounts, this unputdownable book is superbly told and will have the reader desperate to find the answer to the intriguing mystery at its heart. It's unusual, very different and well worth a read. Superbly atmospheric illustrations too.

Echo Boy by Matt Haig

Audrey lives in a world governed by technology; a world where robots work for their human masters. Her father taught her that, to keep herself human, she must surround herself with books and music, philosophy and dreams; this is what will set her apart. But her parents are dead and Audrey is struggling to come to terms with this. But Daniel challenges her preconceptions; Daniel is an echo but not a mindless robot. He feels a connection with Audrey and when she is placed in terrible danger, he's determined to save her. It's an emotional roller-coaster of a book which draws the reader in right from the start. The world portrayed is frighteningly credible with the huge impact made by climate change as well as our ever-increasing reliance on technology. The book made me question where we are going with our use of technology and our impact on the world. A real page-turner of a book with different levels to explore. It brought to my mind some of the speculations made in The Imitation Game.

Bomber by Paul Dowswell

Harry Friedman is the gunner of the Macey May, an American Flying Fortress stationed in East Anglia during the Second World War. The crews of every Flying Fortress - along with all the air crews - face terrible odds on their bombing missions. To make it through alive, Harry will need both luck and courage. Seeing close friends die; seeing the evil of the Nazis; escaping from behind enemy lines - all these will need every ounce of courage Harry has; and courage he certainly shows in this gripping, evocative and realistic novel which is a truly compelling read.

Poppy in the Field by Mary Hooper

Mary Hooper is a superb writer of historical novels and here she returns to the story of Poppy. When Poppy learns that the love of her life is to marry someone else, she volunteers her nursing skills overseas to take her away from the painful reminders at home.. and finds herself in a world of terror. The journey to the hospital in Flanders is full of horrors, and when she arrives it is to find a spiteful ward Sister and unfriendly nurses. But Poppy overcomes her own troubles and dedicates herself to helping others - and through this, finds comfort. It's easy to overlook the role women played in the war - and the long-lasting impact this had - and this book shows superbly how women played their part. Based on a true story, this evocative story is a wonderful account of the vital work nurses did.

Just Henry by Michelle Magorian

World War II changed the world for everyone and this engrossing novel shows the impact on just one family. Henry misses his father who died a war hero; the only way he can put this out of his thoughts is by going to the cinema. That leads to his interest in film and cameras and when he develops an old camera film he uncovers a mystery - a mystery that is every bit as engrossing as those he watches on the big screen. It's a mystery that turns his view of his life upside down. The author has a wonderful gift for evoking period and the way people lived and felt, and this gift shines through in this book. It's a hefty book for young readers, but the story is so well plotted and the characters so well depicted, that it captures the attention and provides a wonderful read.

A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian

The author is, of course, best known for Goodnight, Mr Tom, but her other works are equally compelling and attention-worthy, although sometimes sadly overlooked. This story is also set during the days of World War II - the summer of 1943 and features evacuees. Like so many women, Rose and her sister Diana are finding a whole new independence as well as first loves. But things are not what they seem and when Rose uncovers a love story from another war, she is forced to question her own love. Another vivid and evocative story that transports the reader back in time, engaging them totally with the characters and their lives. It's hugely atmospheric and really gets inside the feelings of the characters.

Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In this engaging retelling of well-known Greek myths, we meet Theseus as he battles to escape the labyrinth, travel with Jason and his Argonauts on their search for the Golden Fleece, share Prosperpina's despair as she is taken by Pluto... and more adventures. The stories are compellingly retold and are excellent to read aloud. I like the way this series from Hesperus Minor crosses the barrier between paperback and hardback, with its flapped covers made of good quality card and with subtle yet evocative cover illustrations. It is a highly collectable series and a great way to build up a classics collection.

Flambards Divided (Flambards 4) by K.M. Peyton

Flambards is a brilliant and evocative series which had me hooked from the start, even though I first came to the series as an adult. We first met Christina at the age of 12; now she is married to Dick but their life together is not as smooth as they had hoped. Christina is still attracted to her cousin Mark and she is having second thoughts..... The characters and the situations are strong and convincing, with emotions superbly conveyed. This is less of a children's book than the first three but those who read the others will enjoy this next step in the lives of the characters. To get the best out of this book, please read the rest of the series first, though, then you will enjoy the plot and character development with no gaps to fill in.

Game Changer by Tim Bowler

Mikey fears open spaces and prefers to shut himself away in his room, avoiding the outside world. His family are hugely supportive and do all they can to shelter Mikey from his fear; right from the start, Mikey's emotions are brought to the fore, captivating the reader with a compelling insight into his phobia. Mikey is determined to overcome his fear and surely, with his sister alongside him, he can do this... But things go badly wrong when he encounters a gang and witnesses something terrible. It's a superb exploration inside a teenage mind, tense and gripping, tempered by a superbly depicted family bond, especially between Mikey and his sister Meggie.

Oxford Children's Classics: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A fresh lively cover which manages to feel very modern yet depicts the period makes a great incentive to pick up this book. Little Women follows the lives of the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy as they grow from childhood to womanhood. It is loosely based on the author and her three sisters and this is where the authenticity comes from. Set in 19th century America, it gives modern readers a picture of warm loving family life and is just as good a read today as it ever was. The additional material at the end is a great way to explore books and reading - it would be good to use in the classroom to promote discussion.

My Smoky Bacon Crisp Obsession by J.A. Buckle

16-year-old Josh Walker is starting sixth form college. He's got his life mapped out - he likes lists, does Josh. He is determined to start a band, get closer to his new girlfriend Becky and maybe pass the odd A level. A few days in and he's already embarrassed himself in front of a class ... he'll need all the help his ferret, a little witchcraft and a lot of smoky bacon crisps can give ... It's funny, it's silly, it's a great insight into the teenage mind and the awkwardness that can beset teens. It's also reassuring and easy to read and to identify with Josh and his world.

Thirteen Hours by Narinder Dhami

This dramatic thriller will have you caught up from the first page as you read on to learn just why Anni has to race home every single day. Anni is a superbly drawn character who faces many problems in her life; these problems are realistically and movingly told and will have a real resonance for any young person who is a carer. The tenor of their lives is broken when four masked strangers break into their home. Home becomes a prison as Anni struggles to find out what the gang want and to take care of her terrified mother. The short time-span makes for compelling reading as the action is packed in and the tension never lifts.

Naveed: Through my Eyes by John Heffernan

Naveed has enough of war. The foreign powers and the Taliban, the warlords and the drug barons have torn Afghanistan apart, leaving its people to pick up the pieces. Naveed cares for his widowed mother and his young sister, earning a pittance by doing odd jobs and selling at the markets. His life changes when he gives a home to Nasera, a street dog with extraordinary abilities. Naveed has the chance to make a real impact, but enemies still surround him. This perceptive and moving story shows how there is hope however bleak things are - but you need character and determination like Naveed to make that difference. Through My Eyes is an excellent series which shows us what life is like for young people in war-torn countries and helps us appreciate the horrors of war and its aftermath.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

The asteroid Ardor is hurtling towards the earth and this is the story of how four High School Seniors re-evaluated their lives. They were labelled - the athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever - but everything changed when they realised that they may only have two months left. Two months to become something bigger than what they had been, something that would endure. The four disparate characters are each depicted superbly and work together as an entity - I found myself responding equally well to each of them. Strong and powerful, it's a book that leaves you thinking about what the future holds.

Spotlight on Sunny (A Reel Friends Story) by Keris Stainton

After winning a local film competition, Sunny and her best friends Kitty and Hannah are off to do a film-making course - in London. Sunny can't believe her dad has let her come on her own and she and her friends are having a wonderful time, both on the course and exploring London. Sunny loves the film-making classes and spending time with their new friend, Will. Sunny knows that these things don't fit with the future her parents want for her and she starts to wonder what she really wants - she has a secret her friends don't know about. The book captures all the emotions and attitudes of teen life brilliantly - it could be written by a teen! Sunny is a wonderful character, close to her family and caring of her friends, she finds herself torn between two worlds. It's a perceptive account of what it is like growing up as a Muslim in Britain and is an excellent read, especially for those who are, or who know, Muslim girls.

Under Cover (Agent 21) by Chris Ryan

Ricky, a street kid, is a new character to the series. When he chooses the wrong people as his target for theft, he is saved by a mysterious man called Felix who makes Ricky an offer he can't refuse: a flat and a hundred pounds a week. The catch? He must take lessons from Felix. Lessons in surveillance techniques, how to make himself invisible in a crowd and hand to hand combat. But what is this all for? Ricky has no idea until he’s given his first mission and finds his whole world turned upside down. A captivating and enjoyable read with an interesting new character - hopefully one that will be developed more in the series.

Behind the Walls (Blue Flag) by Nicola Pierce

If you want to introduce your teen to historical fiction, you can't go wrong with Nicola Pierce's books - they are a perfect example of the genre, packed with authentic detail and with exciting and tense stories. This is not glorified history, it is history as it really happened with its gritty and realistic depiction of the terror-struck city of Derry in 1689 where Protestants are threatened by the Catholic army. It's a vivid evocation of life in a city under siege - boredom contrasted with times of real fear. Memorable characters help us share in the feelings of the people trapped and give us an insight into those feelings, both in historical times and today. Heartbreaking in places, the story is testament to the resilience of people; a moving read.

The Lost Twin (Scarlet and Ivy, Book 1) by Sophie Cleverly

As mother of twins, I find books about twins fascinating, and this didn't disappoint. Ivy's twin sister Scarlet mysteriously died at her boarding school - and now Ivy has been summoned to the school to take her place at the behest of Miss Fox. She sets out to unlock the secrets of Scarlet’s disappearance, through a scattered trail of diary pages carefully hidden all over the school. Can Ivy solve the mystery before Miss Fox suspects, or before greater danger materialises? Or before an even greater danger presents itself? Well written, a real page-turner of a book which I couldn't put down. It's the first in a series - great news!

The Curse of the King (Seven Wonders, Book 4) by Peter Lerangis

The first three books in this adrenaline-fuelled series have already seen Jack McKinley have some amazing adventures - and the excitement continues. To save the world, Jack and his friends must unearth seven ancient wonders, the lost Loculi but having lost one, the pressure is on. Not only that, but they must outwit the Massa who are set on using the Loculi for their own wicked purposes. Now, having lost one of their number, the friends are facing a tougher challenge than ever; as enemies become friends and vice versa, who can they trust? Suspense and action, with ancient and modern brought together - a captivating read.

The Sons of Scarlatti (Infinity Drake, Book 1) by John McNally

A small character with big adventures! Infinity Drake and a crack military team were shrunk by his scientist uncle when lives were put in danger - a power-mad villain has released a doomsday bio-weapon, the mutant Scarlatti wasp. But a double agent throws the mission and now Finn is 9mm tall and has the weight of the world’s survival on his tiny shoulders. A thoroughly likeable hero and a great cast of supporting characters make the book an engaging read. This is very much a boy's book, with its combination of military style adventures, pacy and exciting action, plenty of science plus unexpected twists of humour.

Lockwood & Co: The Whispering Skull: Book 2 (Lockwood & Co 2) by Jonathan Stroud

We are back in the mesmerising world of Lockwood and Co, the talented psychic detection agency. Now Lucy and George are trying to solve the mystery of the talking skull trapped in their ghost jar, and Lockwood is desperate for an exciting new case. Strange apparitions have been seen at the grave of a sinister Victorian doctor buried at Kensal Green Cemetery - but uncanny events take over as the team try to make the scene safe. Time is against them - and so are their rivals, the Fittes agency. Brilliant writing, a great plot, compelling characters - if this is your chosen genre of reading then you will be in your element - and desperate for the next book.

Spook's: A New Darkness (Starblade Chronicles 1) by Joseph Delaney

Just as we think we may have come to the end of the Spooks saga, along comes another superb addition to the sequence.This is the start of a new series - Starblade Chronicles. Girls are being discovered dead in their beds, their faces contorted in horror. They leave behind their ghosts - ghosts who are Worse still, their ghosts are left to walk the earth, just waiting to relate the horrors that took place. Thomas Ward is the Chipenden Spook, responsible for protecting citizens from threats from the dark. He soon realizes this threat is just the beginning. An army of monsters is massing in the north, and it poses a threat to all mankind. These are compelling books which grip the reader, keeping you in suspense throughout - hence the huge success of the series.

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Harriet is a geek - she knows plenty but she doesn’t know why nobody at school seems to like her. But wait - hidden under that geeky exterior is something that leads to her being spotted by a top model agent. Change is needed but the fallout is major - she steals her best friend's dream, falls foul of her avowed Alexa, and worst of all, is humiliated in front of handsome model Nick. Her new world seems just as unfriendly as the old - but will she decide which way to go before everything falls apart? You can't fail to like Harriet and this is at once hilarious and insightful, drawing the reader into the story. Love the cover which perfectly encapsulates Harriet's dilemma. Visit the Geek Girl Facebook page. Geek Girl was the no. 1 bestselling young adult fiction title in the UK in 2013. It was shortlisted for several major awards including the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and the Branford Boase award, nominated for the Queen of Teen award and won the teen and young adult category of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
All That Glitters (Geek Girl, Book 4) by Holly Smale The fourth book in the award-winning Geek Girl finds the series going from strength to strength - please, if you haven't read the others, do read them in order; I promise it's well worth the wait to get to this one. I like Harriet more as the series progresses and love the humour of the books, which are suitable for all teen girls. Moving away somewhat from the modelling theme, this book focuses on school life. Harriet has high hopes for the new school year she’s a Sixth Former now, and things are going to be different... or are they? She hopes to make like-minded friends but this doesn't seem as easy as she hoped; Nat has fallen in love at college and Toby is preoccupied with a Top Secret project, so things aren't as she had hoped. It's clever, it's funny and, best of all, it's totally believable.

Cuckoo in the Nest (Hollis Family 1) by Michelle Magorian

It sometimes seems that the fame and acclaim for Goodnight Mr Tom eclipses the other superb stories by Michelle Magorian, so it is great to see re-issues of two excellent linked stories. Surrounded by the desolation that is post-war Britain, Ralph looks beyond his immediate surroundings (and he really is a Cuckoo in the Nest) and forward to his dream of being part of the theatre. He is mesmerised by the atmosphere and the magic of the theatre; it's a far cry from his working class background and he faces fierce opposition from his father. The story is a superb evocation of the time, with the austerity of the post-war period and the social mores of the time compellingly depicted. Ralph himself is highly credible and you have to admire his determination; I wanted him to succeed every step of the way. All the characters are well-rounded and true to the time. A multi-faceted read with a superb period flavour.

A Spoonful of Jam (Hollis Family 2) by Michelle Magorian

If you enjoyed Cuckoo in the Nest, you will definitely want to read this, which follows the story of Ralph's sister Elsie, who we have met. Elsie, too, has to contend with being different from her family and her peers - she is a grammar school scholarship girl and she finds herself the target of bullying. Like her brother, Elise finds refuge in the theatre and she finds it is the source of confidence. Written with great understanding and empathy, we really feel for Elsie in her struggles but we can also see life from the viewpoint of Mr Hollis, struggling to come to terms with a much-changed world. The character development through the stories is excellent to see and together, they make for gripping and evocative reading. A moving story which gives a good picture of real life after the war.

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

Rhoda and Delia were stunt pilots but a terrible accident kills Delia. The girls had a dream, a dream of living in a world where neither gender nor ethnicity shapes lives. Rhoda determines to follow their dream and she moves to Ethiopia with her daughter, Em, and Delia’s son, Teo. It's a hard life they have moved to, and the background of Em and Teo brings them to the attention of Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, who dreams of creating an air force for his fledgling nation. As Italy prepares for its invasion of Ethiopia, Em and Teo find themselves caught up in events. Rich and atmospheric, this is an engrossing story with powerfully drawn characters and emotions. Set in the 1930s, it manages to capture the period yet address issues in a contemporary style that will engage teens.

Big Game by Dan Smith

To prove his attainment of manhood, as ordained by his culture, 13-year-old Oskari is sent into the cold wilderness on a trial. He only has a bow and arrow to help him survive. The prey he finds is unusual indeed - an escape pod from a burning airliner which holds none other than the President of the United States who has been shot down by terrorists. The two unlikely protagonists find themselves in an exciting and potentially deadly race against the enemy. Exciting, pacy and well-written, with an engaging relationship between the two main characters, this is an excellent read which portends well for the forthcoming film.

Better than Perfect by Melissa Kantor

On the surface, Juliet seemingly has it all, but appearances can be deceptive. But when her parents separate, her mother takes an overdose, landing up in hospital. Combines with the stress of college applications, it's all too much for Juliet, who finds herself in the arms of a stranger; now her perfect relationship with Jason is another casualty. It's perceptive, taking a thoughtful look at what really makes for happiness, and with a heroine the reader readily relates to.Juliet has to make many choices and learn to stand on her own two feet before she finds out what is right for her.

Dragon Shield: 02: The London Pride by Charlie Fletcher

Dark forces have stopped time in London - all that are left unfrozen in London are Will and Jo, plus London's statues - but now even the statues are frozen, leaving Will and Jo only themselves to rely on. Now they are alone and pursued by murderous dragons... and the unmoving people of London are getting colder by the hour. They must hurry to stop the source of the evil before the life force of London's inhabitants drains away. Superbly inventive and imaginative,with a fantastical vision of London, this is a great sequel to Dragon Shield and will have readers impatiently awaiting the conclusion.

Tape by Steven Camden

Record a voice and it lasts forever, speaking to those who come after. This haunting and powerful novel tells how Ryan, recording in 1993, links with Ameliah in 2013. Ryan recorded a diary, talking movingly about his mother’s death, about his aspirations and about his unreturned love. When Ameliah moves in with her grandmother after her parents die, she finds the tape. A tape with a boy’s voice on it – a voice she can’t quite hear, but which seems to be speaking to her. Just what is it that connects these two people? Gently and compellingly told, the story slowly unfolds, making the reader fall in love with the two characters as their lives intertwine. Interesting and unusual.

Armageddon Outta Here - The World of Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Fan of Skulduggery Pleasant? Then you won't want to miss out on this bumper story collection which includes two novellas and fourteen short stories - all those previously published plus three new stories written exclusively for this edition. Two of these new stories delve into the things that our old friend Billy-Ray Sanguine gets up to between books, while the third pits Skulduggery and Valkyrie against a serial killer, a desperate ghost, and a swarm of very nasty insects. Noting unusual there then! If possible, these are even faster-moving than the full length stories - they certainly pack a real punch. Often, to me, short stories can be unsatisfying, but these really fill in gap in the stories and are a thoroughly worthwhile addition.

Insurgent (Divergent, Book 2) by Veronica Roth

In this, the dark sequel to Divergent, Tris has survived a brutal attack on her former home and family but she has paid a terrible price. Wracked by grief and guilt, she becomes ever more reckless as she struggles to accept her new future. Yet if Tris wants to uncover the truth about her world, she must be stronger than ever… because more shocking choices and sacrifices lie ahead. To be honest, this is not a book which appeals to me personally, so it is hard to do it justice in a review. It's a tense and heart-racing novel abut a dystopian society where emnity is out-and-out, no holds barred and everyone out for themselves. Tris is a strong character, in many ways old beyond her years yet in others immature. The story is softened by the love-story but still it remains tense throughout.

How to Fly with Broken Wings by Jane Elson

12 year old Willem has Aspergers Syndrome and he is the target of bullying. All he wants is to fly and to make at least two friends of his own age. The other boys from the Beckham Estate mock him by making him jump off things. But maybe there is a glimmer of hope when Sasha gives him a tiny wink... that doesn't save him this time though - he comes crashing down and breaks his ankle. Angry with herself, Sasha determines to put things right and the two form a friendship while anarchy reigns around them. When Magic Man Archie arrives with stories of war-flying spitfires, he has the potential to change the lives of the children on the Beckham Estate for ever.. Many themes are explored in the book, some more successfully than others; I felt the full potential wasn't quite realised but a good story, nevertheless.

Love Bomb by Jenny McLachlan

Betty Plum has never been in love but when love hits, it hits hard - like a bomb, in fact. It's Toby who has caught her eye and Betty goes all out to attract his attention. But what Betty really needs is a mum to advise her, but her mum died when Betty was a baby. It's the next best thing when she finds hidden letters - letters about what your first kiss should feel like and what real love is all about. Is Toby really right for Betty or is she stifling her real self? This is the second in the series about friends Bea, Betty, Kat and Pearl. The books perfectly capture the roller-coaster of teen emotions with plenty of humour but with a good dash of sensitivity too.

A Cage of Roots (Blue Flag) by Matt Griffin

Ayla has spent her early years in a New York orphanage; now she is in Ireland where she finds magic is everywhere - even beneath our feet. Abducted, Ayla wakes to find herself trapped in a cave. Her past rises up to haunt her and seeks to destroy her as her friends search frantically to save her from her fate. Guided by Ayla’s uncles, they must make a treacherous journey that takes them down among the very roots of time. Unusual and atmospheric this is not a bedtime read - the author's own rather uncanny illustrations add strongly to the feel of the book.

Dance of Fire by Yelena Black

 Another compelling story, continuing from Dance of Shadows.and with just as gripping a storyline. Just two dancers from the elite New York Ballet Academy will try out for the Royal Court Ballet Company - Vanessa and Justin are the ones chosen. But the world of ballet hides a sinister secret - the competition is shrouded by the past and the demands of an ancient organisation. The Lyric Elite needs them to win the contest and to infiltrate the Royal Court Ballet in order to seek out a dark society of Necrodancers. Vanessa will dance like she has never danced before, but not for them. Vanessa is there to find her missing sister, Margaret, and she won't let anything get in the way of that ...

Rugby Rebel (Blue Flag) by Gerard Siggins

Eoin Madden’s having a busy term with friend issues, schoolwork and new rugby challenges. He has been moved up to train with the Junior Cup team, which is hard work, plus there’s trouble in his dormitory as mobile phones start going missing! As usual, there are ghostly goings-on in Castlerock school too... What is the link between Eoin’s history lessons and the new spirit he’s spotted wearing a Belvedere rugby jersey? Historical and modern mysteries combine in this intriguing tale of rugby, rebellion and ghosts. Well told and with a background that will appeal to teens, this is an excellent read with a very interesting combination of sport, mystery and fantasy

Blackout (Urban Outlaws) by Peter Jay Black

If you want fast-paced, edge-of-the-seat excitement, then this is the book for you! Power is out. Security is down. Computers hacked. The world's most destructive computer virus is out of control and the pressure is on for the Urban Outlaws to destroy it. Jack knows that it's not just the world's secrets that could end up in the wrong hands. The secret location of their bunker is at the fingertips of many and the identities of the Urban Outlaws are up for grabs. But capturing the virus feels like an almost impossible mission until they meet Hector. The Urban Outlaws know they need his help, but they have made some dangerous enemies. They could take a risk and win - or lose everything ... It's a fantastic read for boys especially - definitely one to get the adrenaline racing!

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Love and friendship mingled with magic are at the heart of this gripping story by a much-loved author. Twig is a lonely girl whose life is affected by a strange family secret. Could the new girl in town - a girl who has her own link to the curse - become Twig's friend and help her break the curse which afflicts Twig's family? The rumours surrounding the curse attract people to the town - as do (on a lighter note) Alice's mother's famed apple pies. Gentle in feel, the story ends with a slightly unexpected twist.

Zero Hour (Department 19, Book 4) by Will Hill

At 700 pages, this hefty tome will keep its readers engaged for many hours - and there are three books to read before it! Hope is running out and the country is beginning to fall apart as the public comes to terms with the horror in their midst. Only a cure for vampirism seems to have the potential to save them but that is seeming like an impossible dream when time is so short. But familiar faces from the past bring news that could turn the tide; the friends scatter into America and Europe on the trail of a mysterious something; something old and impossibly powerful which waits for them. A compelling fast-moving fantasy adventure which will garner many fans; definitely one where fans should read the earlier books first - you can never go back as too much of the plot will be exposed. Edge-of-the-seat reading!

Oksa Pollock: the Heart of Two Worlds (Oksa Pollock 3) by Anne Plichota

Oksa and her family are off in search of the Entrance Portal of Edefia, their magical home and their only chance of restoring the Earth's balance. Oksa is forced to ally herself with the terrible Felons, mortal enemies who could betray her at any moment - but the counterbalance lies in her friends and family. Even when she reaches the portal, she must face yet more danger - and still more unknown terrors. Set to become a fantasy classic, the series is packed with adventure and excitement yet, despite the fantasy element, the characters are strong and easy to identify with as we share their adventures. I guess we will soon be seeing the books appearing on prize shortlists.

Love Hurts edited by Malorie Blackman

This anthology about love in many different guises brings together stories from a hugely varied range of modern-day authors. In fact, the majority are extracts rather than short stories but this does not detract from the quality of the writing. Reading an anthology like this is an excellent way for teen readers to get an idea of which authors really appeal and they will then be motivated to go on and read the whole story. Star-crossed lovers from authors including Philip Pullman, Lauren Kate, Laura Dockrill, Patrick Ness and, of course, Malorie Blackman herself, combine to make a superbly romantic read. Ideal for holidays.

SEEKER by Arwen Elys Dayton

To become a Seeker is a great honour and Quin Kincaid has been raining for this since the age of eight; the training was brutal and tested her to the extreme. Too late, she finds her role is that of assassin. Quin is injured and loses her memory and this sets up the theme for the second part of the book. Powerful and compelling, with a strong love story interwoven, this is a book you will love or hate. Personally, I find books which jump back and forth in time to be somewhat disorientating, and if you like this style of writing, then you will love this book.

The Bell Between Worlds (The Mirror Chronicles) by Ian Johnstone

Looking for a spellbinding fantasy novel which will really get you hooked? Then try this epic fantasy - a totally immersive book for all fans of the genre. Loner Sylas Tate is drawn into a parallel world by the tolling of a bell. He finds himself strangely at home in this world known as the Other; is this explained by the possibility that his dead mother came from here? But evil is afoot and Sylas must find a girl called Naeo to save the universe. Dramatic and compelling, this beautifully written book takes you right out of this world - and when you come back to earth, you will anxiously await the sequel.

Gifted by Donald Hounam

The police think that the Bishop of Oxford is dead - but it's hard to be sure, faced with a headless corpse. Young Frank Sampson is the forensic sorcerer on the case - he's only 15 and he's easily distracted. There's Kazia, the supposed victim’s niece and Marvo who should be a colleague but who challenges Frank. Not just outside influences though - skilful writing takes us right inside Frank's mind as we share his terror when he fears he is losing his gift. He must fight those around him to prove what he knows is right. It's compelling and insightful - a really exciting debut novel.

The Winter Horses by Philip Kerr

Set against a vivid and terrifying World War II background, this is the story of Kalinka and her fight to save from extermination, not just herself but two rare horses as well. Max's wildlife reserve has been taken over by the Nazis - and he must hide Kalinka, who has lost her home, her family, her belongings. She has built up a wonderfully - and touchingly described - relationship with the Przewalski's horses that wander the reservation. To save the horses Kalinka must set out off on a journey through the frozen Ukrainian forest. Compassionate and heart-warming, this is a superbly told tale of loyalty, human and animal. A real page-turner which will have the reader on tenterhooks throughout.

Looking For Alaska by John Green

This is a stunningly-jacketed special edition of a highly-acclaimed book. Famous last words - to most people, interesting but that's it - not for Miles Halter, however - he is fascinated by famous last words and their impact. He is also tired of his dull life - will boarding school offer the new things he craves? Perhaps Alaska Young will be the one to take him forward into a new world. A truly special story which combines touches of humour with heartbreak; perceptive and thought-provoking, it is a revealing look at the impact one person can have on the life of another. The special additional features are a brand-new introduction by the author; never-before-seen passages from original manuscript and a Q&A with the author, responding to fans’ favourite questions. Together with the afore-mentioned jacket, these combine to make a superb book for fans old and new.

Some Other War by Linda Newbery

At the start of World War I, 17 year old twins Alice and Jack are employed at the grand house of the Morland family. When Jack volunteers to join the army and Alice volunteers as a VAD nurse, their lives are changed forever. They soon learn that the war as reported at home and the reality of being at the front line are vastly different - they see the reality of bungled decisions, maiming and disfigurement and the endless slaughter. This evocative book exposes war in all its gritty brutality and contains a strong message for all of us. It's superbly written and had me gripped throughout, with its vivid descriptions and powerful message. A must-read book from a talented author.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

There's nothing special about Ed Kennedy - until he catches a bank robber. After that, he receives a single playing card in the post - the Ace of Diamonds... and then four more follow. He becomes the messenger - but who is behind the messages and why Ed? These messages prove to be life-changing for Ed and you will be drawn along by him as he experiences huge upheavals in his life and relationships. The characters are far from perfect yet they are likeable. A pacy, thought-provoking page-turner of a book that more than lives up to the promise of The Book Thief.

Shine by Candy Gourlay

Rosa lives on an island haunted by superstition and prejudice. She suffers from a rare condition that renders her mute - a condition that the islanders fear makes people monsters. Rosa is lonely - her mother died and her doctor father keeps her locked away from the islanders. So Rosa turns to the internet for companionship... but can she trust friendships made online? It's a moving and haunting story about fear, about loneliness and about secrets - a book which will be perceived in different ways by its readers, all of whom will interpret and enjoy the book in slightly varying ways - Candy Gourley guides but does not dictate.

Phoenix by SF Said

Far from being the ordinary boy he thinks he is, Lucky suddenly finds an amazing power which means he is the one who can save the galaxy. He's on the run, racing through space and searching for answers. In a galaxy at war, where Humans and Aliens are deadly enemies, the only people who can help him are an Alien starship crew - and an Alien warrior girl, with neon needles in her hair. Together, they must find a way to save the galaxy. For Lucky is not the only one in danger. His destiny and the fate of the universe are connected in the most explosive way. The stunning illustrations by Dave McKean which are interwoven through the story are evocative and atmospheric - as is the narrative. A story that will convert many readers to the joy of space stories.

Trash by Andy Mulligan

Raphael is a dumpsite boy and has been one since he was 3. His life is spent searching through heaps of rubbish looking for anything of even tiny value. One day, he finds a small leather bag - a bag of clues, of hope; a bag that will change everything. Soon Raphael and his friends Gardo and Rat are running for their lives. Wanted by the police, it takes all their quick-thinking and fast-talking to stay ahead. As the net tightens, they uncover a dead man's mission to put right a terrible wrong. The story, one of corruption and harshness, really takes you deep inside the world and the minds of these three boys who lead such a harsh life. This is a very real world, vividly and movingly depicted - albeit far removed from the life most of us lead - and it leaves the reader with an indelible, and uncomfortable, feeling, knowing this is how some people really live.

The New Enemy: Liam Scott Book 3 (Liam Scott 3) by Andy McNab

Liam Scott has joined Recce Platoon, heading for the Somalian border to gather intelligence from behind enemy lines, carry out top-secret surveillance and dead-letter drops. Soon Liam is monitoring a den of Al Shabaab militants and hunting a key terrorist target. Can Recce Platoon find their man in this tense game of hide and seek? If the militants find them first, that's it. An unputdownable story with a fast-moving story line which has reader enthralled. Liam's character is developing through the books and this builds anticipation to see where McNab will take his hero next. Andy McNab has a distinguished military career and this background knowledge gives a strong sense of realism to the book - any teens with an army career in mind will find this engrossing.
   
   

The Zigzag Effect by Lili Wilkinson

Sage knows that things are not right at the Lyric Theatre. She has a holiday job there, working for a magician, which will help her earn the money for a photography course. Theatre folk are notoriously superstitious and when a wand gets broken Bianca is convinced they've brought a curse upon themselves. If, as Sage and Herb feel, this is imagination, why are they mysteriously locked in the supply cupboard overnight? And that is just the start and then things just get more sinister in this gripping and suspenseful novel for readers of 14+. Authentically researched and with some charismatic characters, this is a good read.

The Vanishing Moment by Margaret Wild

Two young women at decisive points in their lives - will they settle for the familiar or step into the unknown? As a girl, Arrow saw something no child should have to see and Marika is caught up in a nightmare. The two meet and then meet a magician who says he can help them leave the past behind. When Arrow and Marika come together in a small seaside town, they meet a mysterious 'magician' who says he knows how to escape the now and step into a new future. Set in Australia, the book transports the reader into a different world, gripped by these two disparate stories and absorbed until the end with its unexpected twist.

Unforgotten by Tohby Riddle

Nobody knows where they come from. But they come. Impossible birds of the big sky and the long night... So begins this timely and timeless story, told mainly through stunning monochrome images with minimal words. A beautiful and unusual book which leaves the reader free to place their own interpretation on what they see - an excellent way to stimulate discussion.

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold

Rudger is Amanda's best friend - an imaginary best friend which is a common scenario with children and this story conjures up the beauty and imagination of such a friendship. But the story takes a sinister turn when Mr Bunting turns up - Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries and he's found out about Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn't there survive without a friend to dream him up? A humorous yet somewhat disquieting read which is a celebration of the imagination, the book is stunningly illustrated with atmospheric illustrations by Emily Gravett. The characters - real and imaginary - are excellently drawn with superb touches of humour and the friendship between Amanda and Rudger is touchingly depicted. The story pulls you in and you just have to finish it to see what happens.

Impossible! by Michelle Magorian

Michelle Magorian is a superb writer - who can forget Goodbye Mr Tom? It's wonderful to see a new book from her and this is another wonderful read. Set in the early 19602 we follow the story of Josie and her search for acting success - despite being told she has no talent. Despite that, she finds herself cast as a boy in an American comedy but in a startling twist, in a case of mistaken identity she is kidnapped and imprisoned. She escapes and a fellow runaway takes refuge in the Theatre Royal, Stratford, leading to a role in a Saturday-morning film. But the kidnappers haven't given up... A gripping story with a compelling storyline and an authentic and atmospheric setting.

Young Bond: Shoot to Kill by Steve Cole

Find out what happened in James Bond's early life with this exciting series. The young James Bond is in Hollywood and all the glitter and glamour of Tinseltown is here - but there's a dark side too. He has found a gruesome film reel - a film someone will kill for. More exciting than any movie, this is a fast-moving, action-packed story, well worthy of its hero. Fantastic read for Bond fans, young and old. This is the first book in the series written by Steve Cole, who has taken over the reins from Charlie Higson.

Brotherband: Scorpion Mountain (Brotherband 5) by John Flanagan

Brotherband characters meet Ranger's Apprentice characters in a book sure to thrill fans of both series. King Duncan of Araluen has an urgent mission for Hal and the Heron Brotherband - they must stop the would-be killers of Princess Cassandra. The trail takes them through challenging locations - through the desert and into the cult’s mountain lair to find their leader – and stop him. That's not all - a seaside battle looming, and the Herons are called upon to help an old friend of Araluen in his fight. Trapped in an unfamiliar land, their forces split between searing hot land and treacherous seas, can the Herons complete their mission – before the killers find their royal target?

Waterfall by Lauren Kate

I don't want to give away the ending of Teardrop, the first in this absorbing trilogy - you really should read that first to get fully engaged with the plot. Can Eureka stop Atlas, the wicked king of Atlantis? Eureka's emotions make her vulnerable to his evil designs and she must find the power from within to fight his machinations - and perhaps lose all she holds dear. What comes through powerfully is love; love not just between Eureka and Ander but also the love Eureka has for her whole family. A magical story with brilliantly depicted characters. How will it all end?

Not in the Script: An If Only Novel by Amy Finnegan

This is the third in a fun, light-hearted series - chick lit for teens. Talented actress Emma Taylor has got herself a part on Coyote Hills, a hot new TV show being filmed in the Arizona desert. But can she keep her mind on acting when her co-star is Jake Elliott, supermodel of the moment? Lively and full of fun, it's a great inside look into the celebrity world.

Golden Stranger (Diamond Spirit 4) by Karen Wood

Shara and her friends decide to protest against the wild horse race that has come to town - but the consequences reach far beyond anything they could have envisaged. When she finds the police on her doorstep, her friend Corey in hospital and her beloved horses taken from her, Shara faces a massive task. Well written and easy to relate to, I like this series because it's good to have 'horsey' stories for older readers, who may well have enjoyed the genre as children and who will enjoy moving on to more grown up stories.

Amina: Through my Eyes by J.L. Powers

This is one series of six fiction titles which show readers aged 11-14 years just what day to day life is in war zones. Important topics, these, and all those who care about the plight of those living in destroyed by war should read them. The courage and determination to rise above events shown by Amina, who lives on the edges of Mogadishu is movingly pictured. Despite damage, the family remained in their home but then government forces arrested her artist father and rebel forces kidnapped her brother. She reacts by creating street art to give herself a sense of hope and to share with people all over the city who hope for a better, more secure future.

The Rule of Thoughts by James Dashner

Michael has completed the Path and what he found at the end completely altered his view of the world. His life was at risk but it was down to him to make the Sleep safe for gamers once again. Kaine is a tangent, a computer program that has become sentient and Michael’s completion the Path was the first stage in turning Kaine’s master plan, the Mortality Doctrine, into a reality - a reality that means any gamer who sinks into the VirtNet risks coming out with a tangent intelligence in control of their body. I found this book dramatic and compelling, making me wonder just how far computers can go in taking over our lives.

Lockwood & Co: The Whispering Skull: Book 2 (Lockwood & Co 2) by Jonathan Stroud

We are back in the mesmerising world of Lockwood and Co, the talented psychic detection agency. Now Lucy and George are trying to solve the mystery of the talking skull trapped in their ghost jar, and Lockwood is desperate for an exciting new case. Strange apparitions have been seen at the grave of a sinister Victorian doctor buried at Kensal Green Cemetery - but uncanny events take over as the team try to make the scene safe. Time is against them - and so are their rivals, the Fittes agency. Brilliant writing, a great plot, compelling characters - if this is your chosen genre of reading then you will be in your element - and desperate for the next book.

Oksa Pollock: The Forest of Lost Souls (Oksa Pollock 2) by Anne Plichota

I've not seen The Last Hope, the first in this series but judging by the reviews, I've missed out! Oksa Pollock is the queen of the lost magical land of Edefia - and her mother was attached by them, leaving her fighting for life. Now she must enter the Forest of Lost Souls, inhabited by fearsome creatures, in a desperate attempt to bring Gus back alive. And that's not all... So much action, that I can't cover it all. Get a copy of this compelling fantasy adventure and find out for yourself!

Oksa Pollock: the Heart of Two Worlds (Oksa Pollock 3) by Anne Plichota

Oksa and her family are off in search of the Entrance Portal of Edefia, their magical home and their only chance of restoring the Earth's balance. Oksa is forced to ally herself with the terrible Felons, mortal enemies who could betray her at any moment - but the counterbalance lies in her friends and family. Even when she reaches the portal, she must face yet more danger - and still more unknown terrors. Set to become a fantasy classic, the series is packed with adventure and excitement yet, despite the fantasy element, the characters are strong and easy to identify with as we share their adventures. I guess we will soon be seeing the books appearing on prize shortlists.

Starring Kitty (A Reel Friends Story) by Keris Stainton

This is the first in a new series that teen girls will love. Kitty has secrets - she's struggling to cope with her mum's illness... and she's falling for the girl with the purpley-red hair. A fun film competition with her friends Sunny and Hannah seems like the perfect distraction. But Dylan doesn't want to be a secret - will Kitty come into the open? True to life characters against a realistic background make this a story that girls will relate to - and be keen to read the next in the series.

Trouble on Cable Street by Joan Lingard

Set in London in 1936 when riots are brewing in the East End as the fear of war strengthens in a troubled locality. Isabella's brothers have been drawn into conflict - one in Spain and one drawn to the Fascists - and Isabella is faced with a conflict of her own. It's up to her to keep the family together in these tumultuous times which are so vividly depicted in this stirring novel. Isabella is a strong character and the reader is really drawn into her struggles. I've read a few stories set in the East End recently and this was one of the most evocative, really giving a strong sense of place and of the struggles people faced.

Black Wreath: The Stolen Life of James Lovett by Peter Sirr

This gripping account is a fictionalised story of the life of James Lovett, son of Lord Dunmain; it is set in 1730s Dublin and colonial America. 13 year old James Lovett, son of Lord Dunmain and heir to several titles and grand estates, finds himself homeless and dispossessed on the streets. His boorish, drunken father must conceal his son’s existence to collect a large inheritance. He announces James's death and even stages a funeral in the city’s cathedral. But James is not dead. A spirited and resourceful boy, he is surviving by the skin of teeth. Can he survive against terrible odds? The adventure works its way to a thrilling climax in the forests of Pennsylvania, followed by return to Dublin and a final confrontation with his family ... A clever bend of fact and fiction.

The Edge Chronicles 11: The Nameless One: First Book of Cade (Edge Chronicles Cade Saga 1) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

Fans of the Edge Chronicles will be delighted to see the start of a new series. Cade is on the run - on the run for a crime committed by his uncle who he has never even met, But now his uncle has returned, and the Academy of Flight are looking for revenge against all of his supporters - including Cade. Cade stows away aboard the Xanth Filatine - a sky-ship bound for the city of Hive. This is not to be a safe haven - far from in as he battles against all sorts of menaces in his quest for safety. The artwork sets these books apart from most for this age group which, sadly, are often not illustrated. The line drawings bring alive the imaginative and often weird characters which abound in the books and make them real for the reader. Another gripping story full of vivid descriptions and anticipation.
   

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