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Book reviews - fiction 11 & over (page 7)

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


A Seven-Letter Word by Kim Slater

Finlay's mother vanished two years ago. And ever since then his stutter has become almost unbearable. Bullied at school and ignored by his father, the only way to get out the words which are bouncing around in his head is by writing long letters to his ma which he knows she will never read, and by playing Scrabble online. 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 is there something more sinister going on? Moving, upbuilding, emotional and a testament to the power of words. A superb story, told with real empathy and heartfeltness.

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

Hailed as invoking both Agatha Christie and Downton Abbey means this book has a lot to live up to - and it does well. It's June 1938 and Sixteen-year-old Julie Beaufort-Stuart is returning to her family's ancestral home in Perthshire for one last summer. The house is to be sold, and goodbyes said. With tension shigh, a respected London archivist goes missing, presumed murdered and suspicion falls on the McEwens. Julie is determined to prove everyone wrong - and the the plot deepens when she notices the family's treasure trove of pearls is missing. A highly charged atmospheric novel with a masterful heroine and plenty of intrigue and mystery.

Kid Got Shot (The Garvie Smith Mysteries) by Simon Mason

Meet Garvie Smith. Reprobate, genius, waster, and sometime detective. Right in the middle of revision hell - until now. A boy from Marsh Academy has been shot, with no clear motive and no clues. Disgraced DI Singh is on the case, and he's determined to keep Garvie away. But Garvie knows he's the only one who has any idea where to look for the answers. Starting with his best friend's girlfriend. And it's going to take more than pointless revision or flunking his exams to stop him getting involved. Exams. What exams? Garvie is a superb character - teens will readily identify with him. The story is well plotted and compelling.

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

"The first time I saw them, I thought they were angels." The baby is sick. Mom and Dad are sad. And all Steve has to do is say, "Yes" to fix everything. But yes is a powerful word. It is also a dangerous one. And once it is uttered, can it be taken back? Treading the thin line between dreams and reality, Steve is stuck in a nightmare he can't wake up from and that nobody else understands. And all the while, the wasps' nest is growing, and the 'angel' keeps visiting Steve in the night. A haunting coming of age story that will hold you captive, The Nest is lyrical, surreal and one of the most moving stories you'll read this year.

The City Bleeds Gold (Take Back the Skies 3) by Lucy Saxon

This adventure-filled fantasy has the familiarity of setting the the author's two previous novels, but with a completely new story that stands alone. Two seemingly different people - Noah is the finest mask-maker in all of Erova, responsible and loyal, has won the heart and hand of the future queen; Daniel, dangerous and daring, prowls the filthy rooftops of the maze-like lower city in search of secrets and crime are actually the same person. Can their lives be unwound to bring a happy ending? Through twists and turns, the plot runs a gamut of emotions that keeps the reader engrossed.

Beetle Queen (The Battle of the Beetles) by M.G. Leonard

Cruel beetle fashionista, Lucretia Cutter, is at large with her yellow ladybird spies. When Darkus, Virginia and Bertolt discover further evidence of her evil, they're determined to stop her. But the three friends are in trouble. Darkus' dad has forbidden them to investigate any further - and Lucretia's disgusting crooks, Humphrey and Pickering, are out of prison. Hope rests on Novak, Lucretia's daughter and a Hollywood actress, but the beetle diva is always one scuttle ahead ...

Waiting for Callback: Take Two by Perdita Cargill

This is a new series which started off with great promise in Waiting for Callback, and the second story lives up to the expectations of the first. Elektra seems to have finally won her dream role in a film - until she works out that Straker is a movie so dystopian that almost everyone really does wish the world would come to an end! And things are no better with her love life with Archie. Elektra is a great character - Full of humour and warmth, the reader really warms to her and shares in her ups and downs. Laughs, friendships, teenage angst - it's all here, superbly written so that the reader is completely drawn into the storyline.

Happiest Days (Jack Sheffield 10) by Jack Sheffield

The conclusion of Star Teacher left us, once again, on a real cliffhanger. What was going to happen to Ragley village school and which direction was Jack's life going to take? So for all those of you who, like me, have been longing to find out, here at last is the answer. Once again, we are treated to a wonderfully evocative journey through a year in Jack's life. It’s 1986 - key events, faithfully recorded, include Margaret Thatcher’s third election victory, Dynasty and shoulder pads, Neighbours and a Transformer for Christmas. At Ragley-on-the-Forest School, another year of surprises is in store - the the school becomes Ragley and Morton CE School. Ruby the Caretaker find happiness at last, Vera the Secretary makes an important decision, a new teacher is appointed and a disaster threatens the school. Meanwhile Jack receives unexpected news, and is faced with the biggest decision of his career... This is a real-feel good series which will leave you feeling warm and positive; the historical background is always spot-on and shows just how much research goes into making the background accurate - a great piece of social history. Over the years, readers have come to know and love (mostly!) the wonderful cast of characters and it's always good to greet old friends. And the wonderful quotes from the children really keep the reader amused. I just hope this isn't the last...

The Bone Sparrow: a refugee novel by Zana Fraillon

Sometimes, you come across a really significant novel; a novel which conveys a powerful and essential message, and this is one such book. Subhi has never known a world outside the refugee camp. His view of the world is that he's at least 19 fence diamonds high, the nice Jackets never stay long, and at night he dreams that the sea finds its way to his tent, bringing with it unusual treasures. And then, one day it brings him Jimmie. Carrying a notebook that she's unable to read and wearing a sparrow made out of bone around her neck - both talismans of her family's past and the mother she's lost - Jimmie strikes up an unlikely friendship with Subhi beyond the fence. As he reads aloud the tale of how Jimmie's family came to be, both children discover the importance of their own stories in writing their futures. Far from an easy read, the book is harrowing and heartbreaking yet carries a positive and upbuilding message.

Wild Lily by K. M. Peyton

K M Peyton has been bringing us superlative children's fiction for 50 years - Flambards won the Carnegie Medal 50 years ago. Still her books are fresh, topical, and perfectly pitched for today's readers. A world away from our fast-moving society - It's the 1920s and cars and aeroplanes are new. Lily Gabriel is scruffy, confident and takes no nonsense from anyone. Antony is rich, spoiled and arrogant and Lily is completely and utterly in love with him. An unpredictable roller-coaster of a book that takes the reader from the 1920s to the 1980s, following Lily through highs and lows.

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

This breathtaking story is tinged with the power of darkness and yet is ultimately positive. Zoe is struggling to keep going since the loss of her father; now she is solely responsible for keeping her young brother alive. It's a huge burden but when she finds temporary refuge in the cabin beyond the woods, she meets a man whose muscular body, marked with strange and primitive tattoos, hints at an extraordinary story. He has the power to light up the lake, and with it, Zoe's world. Zoe calls the stranger X. He is a bounty hunter, tormented by the evils of his victims, which course through his veins. X has never known anything but hate, until he meets Zoe. She shows him what a heart is really for and, if they can find a way to be together, just maybe, his pain can help Zoe forget her own. Powerful and moving.

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart

This suspense-filled novel tells the story of Reuben who lives a semi-feral secret life in the desolate city of New Umbra. When he discovers an old pocket watch, he soon realizes it holds an incredible power: it can turn you invisible for fifteen minutes. He can't resist the lure of disappearance: for a time, he can vanish from the despotic regime of New Umbra. But the watch's power is even more extraordinary than he imagines. Soon, he's on the run from New Umbra's ruler, The Smoke, who's determined to possess it for himself ... Magic, mystery and adventure, this exciting and compellingly-written novel will keep the reader entranced.

Cradle and All by James Patterson

Two young women, both virgins, and living thousands of miles apart. find themselves pregnant. And that's not all - in cities all around the world, medical authorities are overwhelmed by epidemics, droughts, famines, floods and worse. It all feels like a sign that something awful is coming. Anne Fitzgerald, a former nun turned private investigator, is hired by the Archdiocese of Boston to investigate the immaculate conceptions. Even as she comes to care about and trust the young women, she realises that both are in great danger. Terrifying forces of light and darkness are gathering. Stepping into uncharted territory where the unknown is just the beginning, Anne must discover the truth – to save the young women, to save herself and to protect the future of all mankind.

Mark of the Plague (A Blackthorn Key adventure) by Kevin Sands

It's 1665. It's London. And the dreaded plague has returned. Rich and poor, young and old are struck down every day. Can anything halt its dreadful march? Perhaps it is the unknown man who arrives with a miracle cure. But when an assassin threatens the life of the city's new saviour, young apothecary Christopher Rowe and his faithful friend Tom must risk their lives to untangle another dark conspiracy. This friendship is at the heart of the book but Christopher and Tom are far from being the only compelling characters - the book is full of them! Sally is a new character and she proves herself as strong and resourceful as anyone as the thrilling events unfold. In some ways a dark story - necessarily so, because of the setting, the touches of humour lift it. It's an action-packed, tension-ridden story with a superlative atmosphere. Unputdownable.

Maresi (Red Abbey Chronicles 1) by Maria Turtschaninoff

The Red Abbey is on a mysterious island; it is populated only by women and girls - girls whose learning is strictly curtailed. Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen, in the Hunger Winter, and now she is compelled to write her story - and to face her fears. Jai fled to the island to escape terrible danger, unimaginable cruelty and men who will stop at nothing to find her. The women of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. The setting is wonderfully depicted, blending reality and fantasy in a compelling way - the perfect backdrop to the story. The story unfolds, with the tension gradually building, but it's pacy enough to keep you reading, mesmerised by the poetic text and wonderful characters. Fantasy and friendship with trauma and darkness make for a memorable book.

Black Light Express by Philip Reeve

Imaginative and compelling, this is the dramatic sequel to Railhead. From nothing, there came a train. A train with two passengers: Zen Starling, a petty thief from a dead-end town, and Nova, a girl who is not really a girl. Join Zen and Nova as they find out what really lies beyond the end of the universe... Full of extraordinary beings who are superbly depicted to bring us totally real, complex and believable characters; packed with thrills which contrast with thoughtful introspective moments, this is a stunning read which will appeal to both sci-fi fans and those who resolutely avoid the genre - they may well have a change of heart, so do encourage them to try this book. Fast-paced and wonderfully descriptive, the book grabs you and takes you into a futuristic world, connected by trains, which has enough familiarity to make it seem all-too-real.

Child of Fire: Dragon Born: Book Two by Ela Lourenco

The darkness is rising; the shadows on Azmantium grow stronger with each passing day. Only one can hold back the tides of destruction – only the Chosen One can walk the path of light - the Child of Fire… The ever brave Lara, still reeling from the revelation surrounding her origins, will be plunged head first into the plotting schemes of several secret factions as each side battles to win the sacred Karnac – the ancient and perilous tournament to decide the future King. Lara must overcome her fear and embrace her true self if she is to learn how to control the power boiling under her skin, and evolve into what she was fated to be. Treachery and deceit loom over her every step, her path embedded with traps and danger, will the support of friends, old and new, give Lara the strength she needs to stay on the path destiny has chosen for her?

The White Tower by Cathryn Constable

Sad and lonely, missing her best friend Mahalia, Livy finds herself at Temple College, a school for the very brightest and richest. She finds herself strangely drawn to the roof, where, among its towering stone angels, she has a powerful desire to fly. But her behaviour is noticed by others, for whom the ability to defy gravity is a possible reality that they'll stop at nothing to use for their own ends. Superbly atmospheric, with a strong character in Livy, this is a book which grabbed my attention from the very start, making me really want to know more. Chicken House say the story is ethereal - dreamy - heart-rending; it's all those things as it whisks the reader off into what, at times, almost seems another world.

The Great Gatsby (Alma Classics Evergreens) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This classic is the story of Nick Carraway, a young bachelor, who is invited to an extravagantly lavish party in a Long Island mansion. The host is the mysterious Jay Gatsby, a flamboyant but reserved self-made man with murky business interests and a shadowy past. As the two men strike up an unlikely friendship, details of Gatsby's impossible love for a married woman emerge, until events spiral into tragedy. Regarded as Fitzgerald's masterpiece and one of the greatest novels of American literature, The Great Gatsby is a vivid chronicle of the excesses and decadence of the "Jazz Age", as well as a timeless cautionary critique of the American dream. It's a powerful evocation of the American society of the time with characters very much of their period, vividly and realistically depicted. A good value edition of an exceptional story.

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Alma Children's Classics) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This classic collection is the perfect introduction to the exploits of Sherlock Holmes. It is an excellent mix of stories and includes many of the best-loved stories - 'The red-headed league', 'The Adventure of the Speckled Band', 'The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb' and 'A Scandal in Bohemia' are just some of the stories which showcase Holmes' superlative sleuthing. First appearing separately in the Strand Magazine, these stories were published together in 1892 in a volume that rapidly became one of the most popular Sherlock Holmes collections. These stories are proof that the famous detective remains one of the greatest crime fighters ever created, and this edition is excellent value, with many hours of engrossing reading. The book includes extra material for young readers, to give them an insight into the great man and the books about him.

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

It's hard enough knowing your Dad has terminal cancer, but just imagine living out the last of his life in a glare of publicity. Well, that's what Jackie has to face when Dad sold his life to the highest bidder in order to cover the medical bills. When the highest bidder turns out to be a TV station, the family find themselves in the spotlight. Everyone from psychotic millionaires to cyber-savvy nuns wants a piece of Jackie's family as they become a reality TV sensation. Jackie's life spirals out of control just as her dad's starts to run out, and meanwhile the whole world is tuning in to watch her family fall apart. There is (perhaps surprisingly) humour, and heartbreak in this thought-provoking book about a well-portrayed family and their feelings. The book takes a perceptive and often disturbing look at the world of reality TV and the lengths to which producers will go to offer sensational TV. It raises important questions about how far things should be allowed to go in search of 'entertainment', and the impact this has on all of us. It would make an excellent basis for class discussion or for a school reading group.

The Making of Mollie by Anna Carey

It’s 1912 in Ireland, and 14-year-old Mollie thinks her everyday life is boring. But all that changes when she discovers that her older sister Phyllis is a secret suffragette. Mollie is soon drawn into the movement herself, along with her best friend Nora. It seems they are the only ones in their class who take any interest - and despite their enthusiasm for the cause, it seems the Suffragettes don't want them either. They do find themselves a role, but then things start to get dangerous... how far are the friends prepared to go? Packed with atmosphere and period detail, it's good to see the subject from the viewpoint of a young girl; Mollie is a feisty character and I found myself really involved with her story.

Blink and You Die (Ruby Redfort, Book 6) by Lauren Child

Sadly, this is the last outing for Ruby Redfort. Ruby Redfort: undercover agent, code-cracker and thirteen-year-old genius – you can count on her when the ice starts to crack. But now she is facing big trouble and she's scared - there are people who want her dead. Worst of all, one of them is on her team, so Ruby doesn't know who to trust. Ruby is a brilliant heroine - she's not perfect and that helps the reader to really engage with her. A gripping and totally satisfying end to what has been a fantastic series... and I wonder what great strong female character Lauren Child will bring us next? Not read the others? Read them first and don't spoil things by starting off with this book.

The Canterville Ghost and Other Stories (Alma Childrens Classics) by Oscar Wilde

The Canterville Ghost was the first of Oscar Wilde's stories to be published.It tells of a family which moves to a castle haunted by the ghost of a dead nobleman who killed his wife and was starved to death by his wife's brothers. Lord Canterville warns the now occupants that the ghost of his ancestor still haunts the house. Soon, the ghost makes his presence felt but the down-to-earth family counter all that he does. However, when they get to know his story, their attitude changes... Full of the sharp wit we expect from Oscar Wilde, the book also includes 'Lord Arthur Savile's Crime', 'The Sphinx without a Secret' and 'The Model Millionaire'. An excellent showcase of the author's work.

Kings of the Boyne by Nicola Pierce

The Battle of the Boyne was a fierce battle fought to decide who would rule the lands of England and of Ireland. Eager to prove his courage and defend his family honour, young Irish noble Gerald O'Connor rides his warhorse Troy north in King James II's cavalry. On the opposing side, brothers Robert and Daniel Sherrard march south from the once-besieged city of Derry with King William’s army. A fierce battle lies ahead, with a great deal at stake. Full of action, fast-moving and very descriptive, this is an engrossing account with some exceptionally strongly drawn characters. It really brings the period to life, and will help young people understand this key event in Irish history.

Sweet Dreams, Little One by Massimo Gramellini

It's early morning on New Year's Eve, when young Massimo wakes up to see his dad being supported by two strangers, and to find his . mother has disappeared, leaving only a vague trail of perfume in his room and her dressing gown bundled up at the foot of his bed. Where has she gone? Will she ever come back? And will Massimo be able to say sorry, after quarrel ling with her the night before? A dramatic start to a story which takes many years to resolve. At turns poignant and funny, Sweet Dreams, Little One - the most successful book to come out of Italy last year, and an international sensation - is the story of a secret which has been kept hidden for forty years and the uplifting tale of a boy who, as he grows into an adult, has to learn how to cope with the pain of bereavement and the demons of his own nightmares. It's a haunting story, poignant and touching. Find out about the film here.

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.

A Darkness at the End: The shadows know your name ... by Ruth Frances Long

The Dublin of today and the mythical city of Dubh Linn are beautifully interwoven in this powerful story. Long Angels, fae demons and humans are drawn into lethal conflict as the fate of the world hangs in the balance in the final installment in this urban fantasy. Holly, the fae matriarch, tries to seize the power of heaven for herself, while Izzy has lost her memory and Jinx is dead ... or is he? Confronted with ancient powers, sacrifice and treachery. War is looming within the ranks of the Sidhe. The angels and the demons begin to draw lines, daring each other to transgress and start another war. The story is full of atmosphere, rich with legend and history, and full of excellently drawn characters.

Gravity (The Inventory) by Andy Briggs

The Inventory is an amazing collection of technology. It lies hidden beneath a small suburban town, because the world is simply not ready for it. This is the sequel to Iron Fist, and now much of the Inventory's technology has fallen into the wrong hands - including Newton's Arrow, a powerful weapon that can manipulate gravity. It's a terrifying thing to be in the hands of the wrong people and now it's up to Dev and his friends to get it back. In this drama-packed story, they follow the weapon's trail around the world. As they go, they discover the terrible truth about Newton's Arrow's capabilities ... as well as disturbing details about Dev's origins.