The gilded cage, Lucinda Grey
After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can’t accept that her brother’s death was an accident. A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There’s a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother’s killer claim her life, too? (Goodreads)
First lines: I heft the gun to my shoulder, feeling its familiar weight and the heat of the metal through my dress. Sighting along the barrel, I curl my finger around the trigger. The world shrinks around my target as I breathe in. Exhaling, I squeeze.
Canyons, Gary Paulsen
Two boys, separated by the canyons of time and two vastly different cultures, face the challenges by which they become men. Coyote Runs, an Apache boy, takes part in his first raid — the one that will usher him into manhood. He is to be a man for but a short time….More than a hundred years later, while camping near Dog Canyon, fifteen-year-old Brennan Cole becomes obsessed with a skull that he finds, pierced by a bullet. He learns that it was the skull of an Apache boy executed by soldiers in 1864. A mystical link joins Brennan and Coyote Runs, and Brennan knows that neither boy will find any peace until Coyote Runs’ skull is returned to an ancient sacred place. In a grueling run through the canyon to return the skull, Brennan faces the challenge of his life. (Goodreads)
First lines: Soon he would be a man. Not after months, or years, as it had been, but in a day. In a day Coyote Runs would be a man and take the new name which only he would know because finally after fourteen summers they were taking him on a raid.
Words in deep blue, Cath Crowley
This is a love story. It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets. It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea. Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.(Goodreads)
First lines: I open my eyes at midnight to the sound of the ocean and my brother’s breathing. It’s been ten months since Cal drowned, but the dreams still escape.
A separate peace, John Knowles
An American classic and great bestseller for over thirty years, A Separate Peace is timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to the second world war. Set at a boys boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.
First lines: I went back to the Devon school not long ago, and found it looking oddly newer than when I was a student fifteen years before. It seemed more sedate than I remembered it, more perpendicular and straight-laced, with narrower windows and shinier woodwork, as though a coat of varnish had been pit over everything for better preservation.
The graces, Laure Eve
Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on? (Goodreads)
First lines: Everyone said they were witches. I desperately wanted to believe it. I’d only been at this school a couple of months, but I saw how it was. They loved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wakes, stares following their backs and their hair.
Three truths and a lie, Brent Hartinger
Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.
Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.
Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.
Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.
Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definition of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeve.
One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is. (Goodreads)
First lines: It was my fault, everything that happened that weekend. It’s hard for me to admit that, but it’s the truth. I was the one who suggested going away in the first place. If I hadn’t had that dumb idea, who knows how things would’ve ended?
As I descended, Robin Talley
Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them. Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word. But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily. Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school. But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line. (Goodreads)
First lines: The Ouija board was Lily’s idea. Maria warned her not to go through with it, but Lily didn’t listen. She went onto eBay while Maria was at soccer practice and bought the prettiest board she could find. A “genuine antique” she called it.
Blame, Simon Mayo
What happens when society wants you banged up in prison for a crime your parents committed? That’s the situation in which Ant finds herself – together with her little brother Mattie and their foster-parents, she’s locked up in a new kind of family prison. None of the inmates are themselves criminals, but wider society wants them to do time for the unpunished ‘heritage’ crimes of their parents.
Tensions are bubbling inside the London prison network Ant and Mattie call home – and when things finally erupt, they realize they’ve got one chance to break out. Everyone wants to see them punished for the sins of their mum and dad, but it’s time for Ant to show the world that they’re not to blame. (Goodreads)
First lines: The girl with the pudding-bowl haircut crawled out of her bedroom, edging her way to the bannisters. She lay flat on the carpet and peered down into the hall. She watched as a white man in a smart coat half steered, half carried a black woman through the open front door.
The reader: sea of ink and gold, Traci Chee
Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book. Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learnes, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning. (Goodreads)
First lines: Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story. Once there was a world called Kelanna, a wonderful and terrible world of water and ships and magic. The people of Kelanna were like you in many ways – they spoke and worked and died-but they were different in one very important respect: they couldn’t read.
Last time we looked at stuff coming up next year, but there’s still fiction to look forward to in 2016, for example:
A Million Worlds With You, Claudia Gray. The conclusion to the Firebird trilogy, due out in November. These books have been really popular and we can’t wait to see what happens!: “In the epic conclusion to Claudia Gray’s Firebird trilogy, fate and family will be questioned, loves will be won and lost, and the multiverse will be forever changed. It’s a battle of the Marguerites . . . and only one can win” (goodreads.com).
Girl Online: Going Solo, Zoe Sugg (November). Zoella is back with the third Girl Online book. “As Penny starts the school year she’s ready to face the world – alone. Noah has gone off the radar after ending his world tour early and no one, including Penny, knows where he is. So when she accepts Megan’s invitation to visit her performing arts school it seems like an opportunity to make some new friends. Helping everyone else seems to be the right remedy – Elliot needs her friendship more than ever, and she meets Posey, who she can really help with her stage fright. But is charming Scottish boy Callum the right kind of distraction? And can Penny truly move on when Noah’s shadow seems to haunt her round every corner?” (goodreads.com).
Goldenhand, Garth Nix. This is the fifth Abhorsen/Old Kingdom book. The Abhorsen trilogy is clearly not a trilogy any more; we don’t mind at all! We say keep writing. We should be receiving copies of Goldenhand next month. “Once more a great danger threatens the Old Kingdom, and it must be forestalled not only in the living world, but also in the cold, remorseless river of Death” (goodreads.com).
This inspiring book tells the story of Tala; a girl who grew up in Tehran under the restrictive rules and dress codes of Islamic law and went on to create her own fashion label in the USA. Girl powaaarrrrr!! #whoruntheworld
Fashion is freedom : how a girl from Tehran broke the rules to change her world / Tala Raassi.
“The inspiring true story of how courage, a dream, and some needle and thread can change a life forever…
Since she was young, Tala Raassi knew her fate lay in fashion. But growing up in her beloved homeland of Iran, a woman can be punished for exposing her hair in public, let alone wearing the newest trends. Despite strict regulations, Tala developed a keen sense of style in backroom cafes and secret parties. She never imaginedher behavior would land her in prison, or bring the cruel sting of a whip for the crime of wearing a mini-skirt.
Tala’s forty lashes didn’t keep her down – they fanned the flames of individuality and inspired her to embrace a new freedom in the United States. As she developed her own clothing label, her exploration into the creative, cut throat community of Western fashion opened her eyes to the ups and downs of hard work, hard decisions, and hard truths.
Fashion is Freedom takes us on a journey that crosses the globe, from Colombia to Miss Universe, and inspires women everywhere to be fearless…” (Syndetics summary)
Long dark dusk, JP Smythe
The moment she learned the horrible truth about her life on Australia, the derelict ship overrun with violent gangs, Chan Aitch made it her mission to save everyone she could from their fate worse than death. But her efforts were in vain. Now, everyone she cares about is dead or in prison, and Chan is more alone than ever before. As the only person to have escaped Australia’s terrible crash-landing back to Earth, Chan is now living in poverty on the fringes of a huge city. She believes Mae, the little girl she once rescued on the Australia, is still alive – but she has no idea where Mae is, or how to find her. Everything on Earth is strange and new, and Chan has never felt more lost. But she’ll do whatever it takes to find Mae, even if it means going to prison herself. She’s broken out of prison before. How hard could it be to do it again? (Goodreads)
First lines: She says that her name is Alala, but I’m not sure if I believe her. She says that it has a meaning, that in the language her ancestors spoke it would carry some weight, but she doesn’t know what it is now. Nobody remembers. It’s a word that has been lost, from a language that went under the sea.
What I couldn’t tell you, Faye Bird
When love turns to jealousy, when jealousy turns to rage, when rage turns to destruction…Laura was head over heels in love with Joe. But now Laura lies in a coma and Joe has gone missing. Was he the one who attacked her? Laura’s sister Tessie is selectively mute. She can’t talk but she can listen. And as people tell her their secrets, she thinks she’s getting close to understanding what happened on that fateful night. (Goodreads)
“I love you.”
She said it.
She just said it.
She’d been waiting to say it, and there it was.
The fail safe, Jack Heath
Everyone seems to know who Fero is – except Fero. Is he a ruthless boy soldier from Besmar, or an innocent teen recruit from Kamau? He’s running out of time to decide. If he doesn’t help a renegade spy steal a politician’s briefcase, his two countries could end up in a full blown nuclear war – the kind that no one wins. (Goodreads)
“Why are we doing this?” Fero asked.
“Because potassium iodide stops radiation from-”
“From reaching the thyroid gland. You said. But won’t the shelter protect us.”
Street soldier, Andy McNab
Sean Harker is good at two things: stealing cars and fighting. One earns him money, the other earns him respect from the gang that he calls family.
A police chase through the city streets is just another rite of passage for Sean . . . as is getting nicked. But a brutal event behind bars convinces him to take charge, and turn his life around. Now he must put his street skills to the ultimate test: as a soldier in the British Army. And the battlefield is London, where innocent people are being targeted by a new and terrifying enemy. Undercover, under threat – only Sean Harker can save the streets from all-out war. (Goodreads)
First lines: A helicopter roared in enemy airspace. Its searchlight speared out of the warm night and swept over the rooftop. Sean Harker swore and ducked into the shadow of an air vent.
The last descendants, Matthew J. Kirby
Nothing in Owen’s life has been right since his father died in prison, accused of a crime Owen is certain he didn’t commit. Monroe, the IT guy at school, might finally bring Owen the means to clear his father’s name by letting him use an Animus — a device that lets users explore the genetic memories buried within their own DNA. The experience brings Owen more than he bargained for. During a simulation, Owen uncovers the existence of an ancient and powerful relic long considered legend — the Trident of Eden. Now two secret organizations will stop at nothing to take possession of this artefact — the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templar Order. It soon becomes clear to Owen that the only way to save himself is to find the Trident first. Under the guidance of Monroe, Owen and a group of other teenagers enter a simulation of memories they all share within their DNA: the 1863 draft riots in New York City. Owen and his companions will find themselves tested on the gritty streets of New York, and their experiences in the past will have far-reaching consequences in the present. (Goodreads)
First lines: The informant cleared his throat across the dinner table, his long frock coat unbuttoned, his hair greased and curled at his temples. Evening had quickly overtaken the townhouse, and the man had emptied his plate before delivering his message.
An unexpected hero, L.P Hansen
What could be worse, Matt Turner wonders, than having to leave your parents, friends and the buzz of big city life for a remote rural school that’s so small it only has two classrooms, and two teachers who are married to each other? The twelve-year old soon finds out that worse things can happen. A school project plunges him into his worst nightmare – he has to make a speech in public. Matt decides to speak about New Zealand’s First World War pacifist, Archibald Baxter. But is that a good idea in a district where almost every family has lost someone to war?” (Back cover)
First lines: Matt rummaged in his backpack, pretending to be looking for something so he could be the last one getting on the bus. It was his first morning at this country school, so he could be the last one getting on the bus.
It was with a heavy heart that I discovered that, a week after my post on Mary Shelley, a graphic adaptation of Frankenstein – “Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein” appeared on the new books shelf. Bad timing! But then this has to be one of the best graphic adaptations of any classic novel I’ve ever read. It takes text directly from Frankenstein, and the illustrator/editor, Gris Grimly, is an amazing artist. The art itself has a gothic, vaguely steampunk vibe; Boris Karloff eat your heart out, because this is the best depiction of the ‘monster’ I’ve ever seen. Please, please, if you’ve got any interest in Frankenstein, pick this one up.
We’ve taken a sneak peak at 2017, and here’s what we’ve ordered so far:
Carve the Mark, Veronica Roth (January). This is the first book in a new sci-fi/fantasy series by the author of Divergent. “On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?” (goodreads.com) In May Veronica Roth released a “first look” ebook of the first chapter; you can also read an extract here.
King’s Cage, Victoria Aveyard (February). The third book in the extremely popular Red Queen series. “Mare is forced to play a psychological cat-and-mouse game with an old and deadly enemy, where the stakes are not only the future of the Red Rebellion but the sanctity of her own mind.” (goodreads.com)
Caraval, Stephanie Garber (January/February). This is an interesting-looking debut novel that people are saying is a bit like the child of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, or perhaps Pirates of the Caribbean. All good things! Caraval is a legendary annual spectacular show where the audience gets to participate. After Scarlet’s father arranges a marriage for her, her hopes of seeing/participating in Caraval seem dashed, until her sister Tella organises to sneak her away. “Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nonetheless soon becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with her sister, with Legend, and with the other players in the game…” (goodreads.com)
Not just fashion… HIGH fashion. (Such a beautiful book, btw.)
High fashion : the 20th century decade by decade / Emmanuelle Dirix.
“From the Golden Age of Haute Couture in the 1900s to the lifestyle brands of the 1990s, this book looks, decade-by-decade, at the high fashion of the 20th century. Each chapter examines the significant stylistic changes that occurred in the decade in question, and places these in their cultural and political context. The book is illustrated throughout with photographs and drawings of the clothes and the people who wore them. Alongside the individual chapters, three designers that made their mark on fashion are discussed, as well as three key looks per decade. Many of the designers are household names; some are lesser known. But all these individuals, whether through their designs or their business practices, are exemplars of their age.” – Syndetics summary
I’ve been remiss in my duties – I completely missed Tuesday was the 219th anniversary of the birth of the great Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Not only did she write Frankenstein -argued to be the first science fiction novel ever- she had a fascinating life. Her mother was the great Mary Wollstonecraft, an early proto-feminist who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in which she argued for equality in education in men and women. Sadly, her mother died shortly after Mary was born. But the rest of her life was no less interesting. She flouted convention by running off with the still-married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Their social circle included the notorious Lord Byron and John William Polidori, creator of perhaps the first vampire story in modern fiction (although the authorship is still debated today.)
The genesis of Frankenstein began during a sojourn by Lake Geneva. Lord Byron proposed that each of the guests each write a ghost story. Mary struggled for some time, but eventually, after a strange dream, began to write Frankenstein. She was only eighteen at the time, which is pretty impressive. The rest of her life was pretty hard; she had to deal with the death of her husband, some of her children, and debt. But Frankenstein remains a classic. And of course I have recommendations! Frankenstein is a great source of inspiration for writers.
Frankenstein, or, The modern prometheus, Mary Shelley
Of course I have to start with the book that started it all. It’s not just a straightforward science fiction story; it looks at the possibilities and potential abuses of scientific knowledge, questions of personhood as well as guilt and responsibility. Frankenstein’s “monster” is not the green-faced, bolt-necked, incoherent monster of the movies. Rather he’s able to articulate his suffering as on outcast in a way that still resonates: “I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
Hideous love : the story of the girl who wrote Frankenstein, Stephanie Hemphill
This book tells the story of Mary Shelley herself; her life from her childhood to the death of her husband. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking novel told in free verse poetry. Don’t let that put you off picking it up, though – not a word is wasted. It’s sparse and beautiful and affecting – much more than any other biography of Mary Shelley I’ve read.
Man made boy, Jon Skovron
What if Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride of Frankenstein had a son? Simply called Boy, he struggles to fit in with The Show, a refuge for other strange (mostly magical) creatures. He longs for a life outside, so makes the decision to leave – then goes on a road trip, while struggling to deal with a creation of his own. There’s also a sequel, This broken wondrous world.