Book reviews - fiction 11 & over (page 6)


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas: 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition by John Boyne

Bruno doesn't like his new house. He had to leave all his friends behind in Berlin, and there are no children to play with here - until Bruno meets Shmuel, a boy who lives on the other side of the wire fence near Bruno's house, and who wears a strange uniform of striped pyjamas. Powerful and moving, this is an unforgettable account that leaves much to the reader's imagination, but so dramatically is the story told, that it's all too easy to read between the lines. Superbly written, this should be essential reading for all teens - those who hold the future in their hands. This is a stunning anniversary edition of John Boyne's powerful classic bestseller, with illustrations from award-winning artist Oliver Jeffers.

ZOM-B by Darren Shan

These are big questions - and teenager B Smith is about to find the answers. Can you love a bullying racist thug if he's your father? How do you react when confronted with your darkest inner demons? What do you do when zombies attack? From realism to fantasy, the book manages to combine the two perfectly. Key to the book is the relationship between B Smith and his bully of a father; the teachers are also strong characters who have the reader guessing. Add zombies to this volatile mix and the result is a dramatic read. This is the first in a series of 12, all to be re-issued by Simon and Schuster with stunning new covers. .

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.

Night Flight (Alma Classics) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The author is best known for 'The Little Prince'; here we have a totally different book, based on Saint-Exupery's own experiences as a commercial pilot in the early days of flying; this is what gives this haunting tale a real note of authenticity. Airmail pilot Fabien is pressurised by his boss, Riviere, into attempting a perilous night-time flight during a heavy thunderstorm in Argentina. As radio communication becomes difficult, Riviere begins to question his uncompromising methods, and his distress turns to guilt when the pilot's wife comes to find him in search of answers. This powerful novel is full of insight, beautifully written, and draws the reader right into the situation in which Riviere finds himself. A compelling novel.

The Demon Undertaker by Cameron McAllister

The Demon Undertaker is terrorising 18th century London in this chilling and atmospheric novel. His latest dastardly deed is to kidnap Lady Grace Davenport - right from beneath the noses of her family. Even a barrage of bullets could not stop the blood-thirsty ghoul from escaping in his black hearse; is he man or monster? The Bow Street Runners were London's first professional detectives, founded by Henry Fielding, uncle to the fictional Thomas Fielding who encountered this villain and determined to capture him before another victim was snatched. A thrilling mystery story, with an excellent historical background and well-drawn characters.

Liquidator by Andy Mulligan

Liquidator is a brand-new, delicious and hugely popular energy drink. This compelling story is told from the perspectives of a range of characters; that can be a confusing device, but not so when, as here, it is well handled. The company that makes Liquidator is on course to earn a fortune, with its global launch climaxing at an international rock concert; it's the world of big business in all its heartlessness. There is a problem - an innocent child is dying. How i this connected with Liquidator? Well, as you meet Vicky and her class-mates who are off into the world of work experience, you join a situation that is about to spiral out of control, with terrifying consequences. This fast-based thriller is very firmly grounded in reality, and situations that teens will experience, until the events start to move towards possible catastrophe. The visual presentation is guaranteed to attract readers, and they will find they are hooked on the dramatic story.

The Da Vinci Code (Abridged Edition) by Dan Brown

History professor Robert Langdon receives an urgent late-night phone call while on business in France: the curator of the Louvre in Paris has been brutally murdered inside the museum. Alongside the body, police have found a series of baffling codes and need Langdon's help to decipher them. When Langdon and a French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, begin to sort through the bizarre riddles, they find a trail that leads to the works of the famous artist and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci. As the clues unfold, Langdon and Neveu must decipher the code and quickly assemble the pieces of the puzzle before a stunning historical truth is lost forever. This abridged edition is intended for teen readers; it includes an introduction by Dan Brown, and an 8-page colour insert featuring places, landmarks and paintings from the story.

The Complete Zero Line Chronicles (Incite, Feed, Reap) by James Frey

This compilation accompanies the New York Times bestselling Endgame series; it is a collection of prequel novellas that follows the Zero Line, an underground group of conspiracy theorists determined to put a stop to Endgame and thereby save the world. Set several decades before the Players of Endgame meet at the Calling, an earlier generation of Players is learning the rules. Each has been chosen as the one to save their ancient bloodline ―and win Endgame. But not everyone wants to see Endgame take place. One group in particular has other ideas. They call themselves the Zero Line, and their mission is challenging: Kill the Players. Stop Endgame. Prevent the end of the world. I think that this book will be very well received by those already following the series.

The Shapeshifter 2: Running the Risk by Ali Sparkes

Dax is starting to get used to his life as a shapeshifter, and he feels secure, surrounded by people he trusts, and with real friends who goes through the same experiences he does. But when he finds hin=mself in danger and in need of his friend Gideon, Gideon's life changes dramatically, forever. Now Dax feels more alone than ever. Because he can feel that something is very wrong - but no one will take him seriously. No one else can see the danger that threatens to destroy them all. A real page-turner of a book that keeps the reader engrossed; it's perfect for boys, with pacy action and characters with whom they will readily identify.

The White Widow's Revenge (Ferals, Book 3) by Jacob Grey

Caw, the boy who can talk to crows, has battled with the most terrifying villains in order to save the city of Blackstone. But now things get even tougher - his enemy is none other than his friend Selina, bitten by the Spinning Man’s spider and transformed into the White Widow. She has instigated a crime wave that threatens to cause the downfall of the city; it's up to Caw to stop her before the Spinning Man consumes her completely – and regains all of his terrible powers. The excitement has been kept high, and the reappearance of past villains ensures that readers will want to know the outcome.
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 fiction title in the UK in 2013..

A Very Good Chance by Sarah Moore

 Minty's world is falling apart - she has known things weren't right but now her father has left home. She turns to the mysterious and sometimes dangerous Nettlebog for succour. And there she finds Ned, the mystery traveller boy from school, who talks to nobody. Minty has always loved horses but is forbidden to go near them because her mother is allergic. Ned, though, can ride wild horses; and he has a very special knowledge. Set in Dublin and Siena, this is a story about taking chances, being brave and learning the best way to see the world.

The Serpent King (Secrets of the Tombs) by Helen Moss

The third exciting adventure finds Ryan Flint and Cleo McNeil in Mexico, searching for the burial site of an ancient Mayan king. The two have different missions - Cleo wants to solve the mystery of Jaguar Paw's death, and Ryan is in search of his father. But, as if they don't face enough obstacles, there's an enemy in the camp who will kill to prevent them finding the object that will lead to the truth hidden in the heart of the jungle. A great adventure story, well plotted, with enough mystery to keep the reader guessing; it also has a great sense of place. The two characters blend together well, complementing each other and ensuring the book appeals equally to boys and girls.

Zenith: Book 2 (River of Ink) by Helen Dennis

The stand-out feature of this book for me is the illustrated narrative running through it; using this, readers can join the characters in solving the mystery. Jed is the alchemist Fulcanelli who discovered the elixir of life and used it to become young again. But he must take the elixir again to remain alive - but he hasn't a clue about how he made it and now there are only nine months left for him to live. Jed and Kassia must hunt down the secret recipe but they are not the only ones on the trail. NOAH is a secret organisation that will do anything to get their hands on the secret to eternal life. Action-packed, tense and thrilling, this is an excellent read.

The Revenge of Tirpitz by M.L. Sloan

From 1944 to 2014, this is a dramatic and thrilling story of an action which resonated through the years. In war-time Norway, 1944, an unlikely friendship forms between Erik and German Radar operator, Hans, the pair soon become involved in a race against time to help destroy the Nazi warship, Tirpitz. Fast forward to Shetland 2014 when Finn’s great-grandfather receives a letter threatening the “revenge of Tirpitz”. They escape on a fishing boat, making the perilous journey to Norway, where they realise that facing up to the past puts their future in danger. Stunningly written and full of atmosphere and danger, this is an exceptionally good read that will keep the reader gripped.

Sunny Side Up (Geek Girl Special, Book 2) by Holly Smale

Harriet is a wonderful character who is quite irresistible - whatever the world throws at her, she comes up positive; a heart-warming character who grows more and more likeable as the series proceeds. In this perfect summer read, she is in the fashion-led city of Paris, coping with the expectations thrust on her by being the hottest new model at Fashion Week, as well as the problems caused by Nick, her ex-boyfriend, seemingly appearing everywhere she goes. How will she cope? Well, as Harriet always does, with a dollop of commonsense and the ability to laugh at herself. Another great read and there's the bonus of a story written by Nick to enjoy as well.

The Power of Dark (The Witching Legacy) by Robin Jarvis

Robin Jarvis returns to the town of Whitby for his new series - and it's a town which is a marvellous background for his stories, with its aura of mystery. There are strange things going o in the town which, to best friends Lil and Verne, seems like a particularly bad storm. But Cherry Cerise, the last of the Whitby witches, fears that ancient forces are at work, reviving the curse of a long lost magical artefact. The legend tells that the Nimius was created by magician Melchior Pyke, with the assistance of a young witch known as Scaur Annie. But they were both betrayed by Pyke’s villainous manservant, Mister Dark, causing a feud that has survived even beyond death. Now Mister Dark, with his horrific winged familiar, has arisen to mastermind Whitby’s very own apocalypse and take the Nimius for his own evil purposes. Cherry Cerise needs the help of Lil and Verne to thwart his evil plans. Another gripping story, compelling and powerful.

The Crystal Run by Sheila O'Flanagan

This book is far from what I expected from this successful author of books for adults. Things are going as normal for teenager Joe when he seeks safety from bullies but he exchanges one peril for another when he accidentally runs through a portal to another world, ending up in a training camp for a group of teenage boys and girls who will become Runners. The Runners are responsible for protecting the land of Carcassia - but in doing so, they inevitably die. When Joe is sent on the next Run, accompanying the Runner, Kaia, he is determined to return but Kaia is only intent on her goal, to save the country. As friendship builds, Joe wonders if he can save Kaia as well as himself. But hings turn out harder than either had expected... It's a fast-moving story with likeable characters, although they are not as well rounded-out as I expect from this author. I look forward to seeing how the storyline develops in future books.

The Hero's Tomb (Tales of Fayt) by Conrad Mason

Azurmouth is a huge and dangerous city; Joseph Grubb has come to the city, seeking the truth about his family and his friend Tabitha has followed him. But in Azurmouth nothing is as it seems, and a terrifying ancient power is about to be unleashed...If Joseph is to learn the truth about his father, he must face his deepest fears, and a final reckoning, at the Hero's Tomb. This page-turning fantasy will have its readers hooked right from the start - but they will enjoy the story even more if they read the first two stories before this one. The story is packed with action, with twists and turns that will keep the reader wondering throughout; the excellently portrayed characters also draw readers in.

Serafina and the Twisted Staff (The Serafina Series) by Robert Beatty

Once hidden in the dusty basement of the Biltmore Estate where her father worked as hired help and she had to remain invisible, young Serafina now struggles to adjust to her new life of airs and graces upstairs in the grand house. Uncertain about what the discovery of her mother in the dark forests that surround the house means, Serafina finds herself caught between two very different lives. When a sinister arrival threatens her whole world, Serafina and her new friend Braeden must solve the mystery of this new evil before it engulfs everything – and everyone – they’ve ever known . .

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

In this novel death is a begining, a new start. Liz is killed in a hit a run accident and her 'life' takes a very unexpected turn. At nearly sixteen she knows she will never get married, never have children, and perhaps never fall in love. But in Elsewhere all things carry on almost as they did on earth except that the inhabitants get younger, dogs and humans can communicate (at last) new relationships are formed and old ones sadly interrupted on earth are renewed. Full of the most ingenious detail and woven around the most touching and charming relationships this is a novel of hope, of redemption and re-birth. It is a novel that tells of sadness with heart-breaking honesty and of love and happiness.

Witches Hill (Things That Should Not be There) by John Chant

The story of the Pendle witches is one that can still send shivers down the spine - and this atmospheric novel captures that to perfection. Esteban Fawkes is a young sorcerer specialising in time magic, known as Chronomancy. Danny is a Conjurer who can summon supernatural beings, or banish the Things That Should Not Be Here. When the two come together, mysterious and inexplicable things start to happen. When Esteban and Danny go mountain biking in Lancashire, they are imprisoned by the ghost of Jennett Device - the child witch whose testimony sent the Pendle witches to the gallows in 1612. Can they stop the witch hunt from happening again? A compelling tale, full of atmosphere, which really brings the 17th century to life.

Agent Two Face by Paul Nolan

A dramatic introduction draws you straight into the book - you just have to find out who Grandpa's mysterious visitor is. The story takes you back to London during the First World War, where a German teenager is captured by spymasters and finds himself living a double life. From the streets of London to the horrors of the Western Front, this relatively young person finds himself in a position to turn the war in Germany's favour. It's a tense and exciting story which is excellent to set the background of the Great War for students. Excellently written with well-rounded and captivating characterisation.

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.

The It Girl: Team Awkward (It Girl 2) by Katy Birchall

When the video of her falling into a plant pot goes viral, Anna knows term will start badly. So she decides that if what she does is going to be seen by more than 10 million people, it's got to be something worth looking at. Everyone else seems to have a special ‘thing’ – especially the new girl at school, who’s been distracting Connor with their shared love of art. Luckily the school sports day is looming, and Anna is limbering up!, determined to prove she can be a good role model... but things never go to plan for disaster-prone Anna. A hilarious story with a wonderful lead character you are going to adore; the book has a good message too - be true to yourself. The story is told partly through the form of emails and texts and this is well handled so they add to the story and don't break the flow, as can happen.

Oh, Freedom! by Francesco D'Adamo

10 year old Tommy roams the cotton fields of Alabama, living in fear of Captain Archer, as do all the slaves. But that all changes when a mysterious stranger, Peg Leg Joe, suddenly turns up. He guides Tommy, his family and other slaves out of Southern USA, and into Canada through the legendary Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses, which stretched for miles across the country. In all, the network helped 100,000 slaves to find a new life. It's not easy, though, and Tommy needs all his strength. We see Tommy mature as the story progresses, and this is excellently portrayed. There's tension through the story, as the escaping slaves face danger everywhere. It's a book which, despite having its roots in the past, has a pertinent message for us today, as oppression is a way of life in many places.

Rose in the Blitz by Rebecca Stevens

The discovery of an unexploded bomb sets the scene at the start of this compelling time-slip novel. Rose can't sleep for worrying, and she's worried about her mother's re-marriage; poor confused Great-Aunt Cosy, can't sleep either. When the old lady leaves the house, Rose follows her to the London underground. They board an empty train which stops in 1940, conveying them and us to a war-torn London in the midst the Blitz. Here, Rose witnesses great romance and impending sacrifice, set against a dramatic backdrop. Tragedy will surely follow - unless she can change what happens next ...

The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster

Hope and heartbreak combine to stunning effect in this compelling and compassionate story. Eleven-year-old Joe has a severe immune disorder and lives his life in a bubble in a hospital room with its beeping machines and view of London's rooftops. His condition means he's not allowed outside, not even for a moment, and his few visitors risk bringing life-threatening germs inside his 'bubble'. But then someone new enters his world and changes it for ever. THE BUBBLE BOY is the story of how Joe spends his days, copes with his loneliness and frustrations, and looks - with superhero-style bravery, curiosity and hope - to a future without limits. Expect superheroes, super nurses and a few tears from this truly unique story. It could be depressing but far from it - it's an uplifting, positively life-affirming story with a very memorable hero; and hero is absolutely the right word.

The Sword That Saves by Ambrose Merrell

Sam is in foster care, separated from his sisters, and he doesn't believe the promises that they will eventually be together. In desperation, he runs away and finds himself at an Aikido club. Aikido is an ancient martial art and the club's leader, Kensho, sees something special in Sam and takes him under his wing. But Kensho is not quite of this world - he keeps disappearing back to 16th century Japan. He shows Sam that he and his sisters are needed to fight an evil force, and together they embark on a dramatic journey. The most powerful message to me in this book is the bond and trust between Sam and his sisters, which is superbly portrayed.

Shadow of the Yangtze (Ghosts of Shanghai) by Julian Sedgwick

A dramatic beginning and a deserted city of Shanghai immediately grabbed my attention. Ruby, a Western girl, and her friend Charlie must follow the Yangtze hundreds of miles upriver, through dangerous countryside, in pursuit of Moonface who has abducted Charlie's sister Fei. The country is in turmoil, with Nationalists, Communists and warlord bandits struggling for control. Ruby and Charlie brave a shipwreck and a gunbattle and then take a perilous cliff path to Moonface's lair. Ruby is a wonderful character, brave and determined; the storytelling dramatic and perceptive, giving a real sense of place.

Dark Tide (Waterfire Saga) by Jennifer Donnelly

In the Waterfire Saga, six mermaids battle to save their hidden world. Leaders of a resistance to the barbaric new regime, Serafina and Neela, are working hard to destabilise Vallerio, the new ruler of Cerulea. Becca, Ava and Ling are still hunting for their ancestors' talismans; the keys to keeping an ancient evil locked in its icy prison. Astrid finally returns home to Ondalina to find that all is not as she left it, and a sinister human with empty, black eyes offers her power she never dreamed of ...This is one of those series that just gets better and better - stronger storylines and richer, more rounded characters.

The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan

This topical story is realistic and powerful; it's not one for the faint-hearted because the gritty reality of lives lived in fear is strongly portrayed. At 14, Charlie Law has always lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country. The rules are strict - nobody wants to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. But when Charlie meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country, and Little Town changes for ever. Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town's rules crumble, Charlie is sucked into a dangerous game. There's a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy. Can Charlie keep everyone safe - even himself?

Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

Mother and daughter pairing bring us a novel which can be enjoyed equally as a stand-alone or as a sequel to Between the Lines. Oliver is a prince straight from the pages of a fairy tale who has been wished into the real world by Delilah. But nothing is as simple as it seems - to exist in the real world, Oliver must take the place of a real boy. So in comes Edgar, who agrees to play Oliver's role in the pages of Delilah's favourite book. Still there are problems and it becomes hard to distinguish between the possible and the impossible. The reader really will wonder if there could possibly be a happy outcome In this multilayered universe, the line between what's on the page and what's possible is blurred. Is there a way for everyone to live happily ever after? It's an unusual story, not what we expect from Jodi Picoult, but nonetheless a good read.

Knights of the Borrowed Dark (Knights of the Borrowed Dark Book 1) by Dave Rudden

This is the first in a series about an orphan boy who discovers he is part of a secret army that protects the world from a race of shadowy monsters. But Denizen Hardwick doesn't believe in magic - until he's ambushed by a monster created from shadows and sees it destroyed by a word made of sunlight. So Denizen discovers there really is a world beyond the one he knows; a dark world where evil awaits. Fortunately for humanity, between us and the shadows stand the Knights of the Borrowed Dark - with Denizen amongst their number. Denizen is just one in a wonderful cast of characters that people this unforgettable book. It is a real page-turner, with a familiar premise that has been given a totally new spin, to bring us a book that will have you hungering for the sequel.

The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

In Second World War Amsterdam, Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering black-market goods to paying customers; a secret work that she keeps hidden from her parents. It's her act of rebellion and one way to keep her busy as she tries to come to terms with the death of her boyfriend, who was killed on the front line when the Germans invaded. One day Hanneke gets a very unusual request; she is asked to find a Jewish girl who has disappeared from the secret room in her house. As Hanneke becomes more involved with the Resistance, we see her blossom and develop into a strong, mature and caring person. Comparisons with Anne Frank are inevitable and this moving and emotional story stands up well and has a refreshing voice of its own which makes it a compelling read. The historical accuracy is a key part of the novel, making the events real and totally believable. A superb read.



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