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I don’t remember the title, but it’s BLUE.

Image thanks to Blue Willow Bookstore

In honor of this wonderful display at Blue Willow Bookstore in Texas, here’s a collection of books with blue covers.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Sky Inside, Clare B. Dunkle

Martin lives in a perfect world. Each year a new generation of genetically-engineered children is shipped out to meet their parents. Residents keep track of seasons by taking down the snow from their windows and replacing it with flowers. Every morning families gather to vote on matters of national importance. Today it is the colour of the president’s drapes. It’s business as usual, until a stranger comes to take away the smallest children, including Martin’s sister. No one’s talking about it, and Martin decides he has just two options – continue living in the unspoken looming danger zone, or leave the dubious safety of his home, HM1, and make his way through the supposed wasteland outside.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Six Rules of Maybe, Deb Caletti

Scarlett Hughes is very concerned with the lives of everyone around her all the time, and spends very little time thinking of herself. Out of the blue her sister Juliet comes home from school, pregnant and married to a man she seems to have no interest in, but who is completely besotted with her. Scarlett is prompted to think introspectively and consider the necessity of dreams and speaking the truth.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHow To Steal A Car, Pete Hautman

Some girls act out by drinking, taking drugs, harming themselves, harming others. Kelleigh steals cars instead. In How to Steal a Car we are taken on a turbulent journey through Kelleigh’s day-to-day life, one car theft at a time.

(I like that this upends the ridiculous cars-are-for-boys trope!)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsBait, Alex Sanchez

After Diego lands himself in probation for fighting, he doesn’t trust his probation officer, Mr. Vidas anymore. But Diego soon realises he needs Mr. Vidas’s help to keep his anger under control. To do that, he must confront the nightmares and memories he has been hiding from. But will anyone believe him, even if he does open up and tell the truth?

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsNorth Child, Edith Pattou

It was clear Rose had a special fate from the day she was born. But her mother keeps the mysterious circumstances of Rose’s birth a secret, hoping to keep her from leaving home. But Rose’s nature can’t be denied forever. So when a great white bear turns up one cold autumn evening asking Rose to come away with it in exchange for health and prosperity for her family, she jumps at the chance. The bear takes Rose to an empty castle fortress, where she is joined nightly by a mysterious stranger. Slowly she begins to learn his identity, but in doing so she loses her heart and begins to realise her journey has only just begun.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsChasing Brooklyn, Lisa Schroeder

Brooklyn can’t sleep. Her boyfriend Lucca died only a year ago, and her best friend Gabe recently died of an overdose. She is haunted by Gabe every time she closes her eyes, but she can’t fathom why Lucca doesn’t appear too. Nico can’t stop running, from the pain of the loss of his brother Lucca. But emotions run high when Lucca’s ghost starts leaving messages for Nico, telling him to reach out to Brooklyn. But neither will admit they’re being haunted, and until then, no one can rest.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFat Angie, e. E. Charlton-Trujillo (this one features in the display above!)

Angie is broken. By her mother, her bullies, and her own belief that her war-hero sister could still be alive, Angie struggles to get through each day. Hiding under a mountain of junk food doesn’t work and things are looking bleak, until the arrival of KC Romance, the kind of girl who doesn’t exist in Dryfalls, Ohio. She is the only one who doesn’t see Angie as “Fat Angie” and knows all too well that the package doesn’t always match what’s inside.

New Books

The blue covers edition:

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMe myself Milly, Penelope Bush (183 pages) – What happened to Milly last summer? She can’t talk about it. Instead, she’s writing her journal. About growing up in the shadow of her twin sister Lily. About the American boy who’s moved upstairs. Milly can’t keep her secret forever – can she?

First line: “This week at the counselling session, Mr Jessop – or Ted, as he keeps telling me to call him – suggested I write a journal.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsOne Crow Alone, S. D. Crockett (310 pages) – The cold, bitter winters are getting longer, and a state of emergency has been declared across Europe. After the death of her grandmother and the evacuation of her small Polish village, sixteen-year-old Magda is running out of options. With the help of arrogant, yet resourceful Ivan, she smuggles her way to London. But London is nightmarish and far from welcoming. The pair will need all the cunning and know-how they possess to survive.

First lines: “Of course there were summers. But not then.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFinding Cherokee Brown, Siobhan Curham (331 pages) – When I decided to write a book about my life I thought I’d have to make loads of stuff up. I mean, who wants to read about someone like me? But as soon as I started writing, the weirdest thing happened. I found out I wasn’t who I thought I was. And I stopped being scared. Then everything went crazy! Best of all, I discovered that when you finally decide to be brave it’s like waving a wand over your life – the most magical things can happen.

First lines: “I’ve decided to write a novel. If I don’t write a novel I will kill somebody.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAnother Life, Keren David (340 pages) – Kicked out of yet another boarding school, Archie couldn’t be happier to find himself back in London with old friends and an exciting social life. But he’s worried about his cousin Ty, who is facing a sentence in a Young Offender Institution and doesn’t seem to be coping. And he’s finding that his old friends have moved on and it’s a struggle to keep up with their new lives. When he begins to learn surprising things about Ty, Archie goes on a mission to discover the truth about his cousin’s past.

First line: “There’s a matchbox of weed sitting on the headmaster’s desk – good quality Dutch skunk. I can smell it, sweet and strong, from my uncomfortably low chair.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsInfinite Sky, C. J. Flood (271 pages) – No one should die the way he did. I think about him, in there, with all that space, and I want to stop them. I want to open the coffin and climb in with him. I can’t bear the thought of him being cold. And all the time the same question flails around my head, like a hawk moth round a light bulb. Is it possible to keep loving somebody when they kill someone you love? Sidenote: check out the seriously pretty cover!

First lines: “It was three months after Mum left that the gypsies moved in. They set up camp in the paddock one Sunday night while we were asleep.”

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsJepp, who defied the stars, Katherine Marsh (380 pages) – Fifteen-year-old Jepp’s life is changed forever the day he is whisked from the Dutch countryside to the court of the Spanish Infanta. However, Jepp’s happiness soon turns to misery as he discovers that humiliation and cruelty lurk beneath the court’s glittering facade. Jepp must draw on all his courage and charm to win the woman he loves, find his true identity and become the man he wishes to be.

First lines: “Being a court dwarf is no easy task. I know because I failed at it.”

Wild Night with Rhys Darby and also Bear Grylls

Bear Grylls is going to be in Wellington on the 30th of November, hosted by Rhys Darby.

If you’re a Bear fan, you might like to revisit some Man Versus Wild episodes in the mean time, including the New Zealand special, in which Bear eats a weta (I think – my cat tells me they don’t taste so good).

Bear’s live on stage website is here.

New Books

This week’s cornucopia of new books contains epic adventures, dark fairy tales, sky pirates, unforgettable, kickass characters, a shipwreck, and Joan of Arc!

Kill Me Softly, Sarah Cross (331 pages) – If you like the TV series Once Upon a Time and Grimm then you might like to read this! Mirabelle sneaks back to her birth town just before her sixteenth birthday, to find it’s a place where fairy tales are real. Trouble is (as you know) fairy tales aren’t lovely and sweet, and Mirabelle is drawn into one in particular, involving two brothers with fairy tale curses and “a dark secret”.

First sentence: Birthdays were wretched, delicious things when you lived in Beau Rivage.

Where It Began, Ann Redisch Stampler (369 pages) – This one reminded me of the Jenny Han books (e.g. The Summer I Turned Pretty) and then I saw that she’s written “unputdownable!” on the cover! Gabby has reinvented herself for her senior year, with some success, as she has a perfect boyfriend in Billy. But eight months in, she wakes up on the ground next to Billy’s wrecked BMW with no memory, with no sign of Billy. Putting her life back together may mean facing some unpleasant truths.

First sentence: This is how it starts: some hapless girl in a skanky tank top lying on her back in the wet grass somewhere in Hidden Hills.

Once Upon a River, Bonnie Jo Campbell (348 pages) – “Margo Crane, a beautiful and uncanny markswoman, takes to the Stark River after being complicit in the death of her father and embarks on an odyssey in search of her vanished mother.” (catalogue) This sounds intriguing! And the cover calls Margo “an unforgettable heroine”.

First sentence: The stark river flowed around the oxbow at Murrayville the way blood flowed through Margo Crane’s heart.

The Maid, Kimberly Cutter (287 pages) – The story of Joan of Arc! Jehanne d’Arc was a peasant girl, “whose sister was murdered by the English, who sought an escape from a violent father and a forced marriage, who taught herself to ride and fight, and who somehow found the courage and tenacity to persuade first one, then two, then thousands to follow her” (catalogue), in other words, she was awesome! Also, the cover painting is Joan of Arc, by Sir John Everett Millais.

First sentence: She awakes in darkness, curled on the cold stone floor of the tower.

Blind Sight, Meg Howrey (289 pages) – Luke Prescott has “spent a short lifetime swinging agreeably between the poles of Eastern mysticism and New England Puritanism” (cover), thanks to his mother and grandmother. You couldn’t blame him for being confused! But wait, there’s more: his father, a famous TV star, invites him to Los Angeles to spend time, so Luke finds himself in the elite world of celebrity, trying to figure out the difference between truth and belief.

First sentence: Names are just what we all agree to call things.

Losers in Space, John Barnes (433 pages) – “In 2129, hoping to bypass the exams and training that might lead to a comfortable life, Susan, her almost-boyfriend Derlock, and seven fellow students stow away on a ship to Mars, unaware that Derlock is a sociopath with bigger plans” (catalogue). They say that Susan is “kickass” though, so I have some hope for her against a sociopath!

First sentence: “This collection of losers and misfits will now come to order for a report from your activities chairman”.

There is no long distance now (very short stories), Naomi Shihab Nye (201 pages) – There are 40 stories in here! 40! The dust jacket says: “”In these forty life-altering, life-affirming, and extremely short short stories, the award-winning poet Naomi Shihab Nye proposes that no matter how great the divide between friends, siblings, life and death, classmates, enemies, happiness and misery, war and peace, breakfast and lunch, parent and child, country and city, there is, in fact, no long distance. Not anymore.”

First sentence: Jane’s father announced their moves as if they were dinner menus.

Retribution Falls, Chris Wooding (461 pages) – This is sky pirates, with steampunk. Darian Frey is the captain of Ketty Jay. When an attempt to steal a chest of gems goes horribly wrong, he finds himself the most wanted person in Vardia, on the run from bounty hunters, the Century Knights, and the “queen of the skies”, Trinica Dracken. The punishment seems to outweigh the crime: Frey and his crew must flee to the pirate town of Retribution Falls, and find out what’s really going on. It’s like Stardust meets Firefly!

First sentence: The smuggler held the bullet between thumb and forefinger, studying it in the weak light of the storeroom.

Thief’s Covenant, Ari Marmell (272 pages) – “Once she was Adrienne Sati, an orphan with a rags-to-riches story until a conspiracy of human and other forces stole it all away in a flurry of blood and murder. Now she is Widdershins, a thief with a sharp blade, a sharper wit, and help from the mystical god Olgun, a foreign god with no other worshippers but Widdenshins. But now something horrid, something dark, is reaching out for her, a past that refuses to let her go.” (catalogue)

First sentence: The girl watched, helpless, as the world turned red beneath her.

Jamrach’s Menagerie, Carol Birch (295 pages) – In 19th Century London, Jaffy, a street urchin, is taken under the wing of the great Charles Jamrach, famed owner of exotic creatures (including the tiger that tried to kill Jaffy). Jaffy is recruited by Jamrach on a trip to the Dutch East Indies to catch a “fabled dragonlike creature”. The creature is caught, but is it bad luck? The fierce storm and resulting shipwreck seem to suggest so.

First sentences: I was born twice. First in a wooden room that jutted out over the black water of the Thames, and then again eight years later in the Highway, when the tiger took me in his mouth and everything truly began.

New Fiction

Some make-believe to counterbalance all the non-fiction. Lots and lots of fairies, plus a mermaid and one or two regular folk.

Beauty Queens, Libba Bray (390 pages) – <3 the cover. Don’t be fooled! This is not just a book about lipstick as ammunition, and aqua bikinis with little white dots. This is kind of beauty pageant meets Lost (the TV programme), complete with pirates and a few lessons in feminism. The premise: a plane carrying the fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream Pageant crashes on a deserted island, leaving them to fend for themselves: “welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness” (book cover.

First sentence: “Are you all right?”

Tempestuous, Lesley Livingston (361 pages) – the conclusion to the trilogy (Wondrous Strange and Darklight are the other two) in which Kelley Winslow discovers she is not only a Shakespearean actor but also a powerful fairy in a world she didn’t know existed. Kelley’s determined to get Sonny back, but she must also find out who’s trying to make the Janus Guards go over to the dark side, try and rebuild her theatre company, and not get distracted by the Fenrys Wolf (in a love triangle sort of way).

First sentence: The antique black carriage sped through the night, its tall spoked wheels whirring, skimming the surface of the river as though the spectral horse that pulled it followed a paved track.

The Secret Journeys of Jack London: The Wild, Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon (348 pages) – if you read and enjoyed The Call of the Wild and White Fang then this might interest you. It’s a fictionalised account of Jack London’s teenage life, where he finds himself heading for the Yukon in search of gold. What greets him is kidnapping, slavery and murder, and a supernatural twist. It’s also beautifully illustrated, in the style of a Jack London novel.

First sentence: Jack London stood on the deck of the Umatilla and looked out upon the docks of San Francisco, wondering how long it would be before he saw the city again.

Born at Midnight, C C Hunter (398 pages) – The first in a new supernatural series. After getting into trouble Kylie is sent to a camp for troubled teens, but it quickly becomes clear they’re not just ordinary teens. Plus: Kylie’s not a normal teen either. To complicate matters there’s Derek and Lucas.

First sentence: “This isn’t funny!” her father yelled.

The Dead I Know, Scot Gardner (208 pages) – scarily, Aaron is a sleepwalker. More so, he has weird unexplainable dreams and blanks where there should be memories. He must uncover the truth about his past in order to ensure his safe future. A gripping psychodrama.

First sentence: The office of JKB Funerals was a majestic orange-brick addition to a modest orange-brick house.

Illusions, Aprilynne Pike (375 pages) – following on from Wings and Spells. Laurel finds herself in a bind: “As her senior year of high school starts, Laurel is just beginning to adjust to Tamani’s absence when he suddenly reappears, telling her he must guard her against the returning threat of the trolls that pose a danger both to her and to Avalon.” (Library catalogue)

First sentence: The halls of Del Norte High buzzed with first-day-of-school chaos as Laurel wedged herself through a crowd of sophomores and spotted David’s broad shoulders.

Forgive My Fins, Tera Lynn Childs (293 pages) – Lily Sanderson is part human, part mermaid, and this has been the cause of much inner turmoil for her. Trying to find where she belongs, she’s enrolled (as a human) in Seaview High School and things are going well: there’s even Brody. Trouble is, mermaids bond for life, which isn’t necessarily the best scenario for high school, and to top it off, her efforts to win Brody’s heart without letting on who she really is are sure to get her into a large pickle.

First sentence: Water calms me.

The Iron Queen, Julie Kagawa (359 pages) – following on from The Iron King and The Iron Daughter. Meghan is half fairy, half human, and is being pulled into a conflict against the Iron Fey: a conflict she may not survive. All this while being torn from Ash, who seems to be quite special, judging by the rave reviews he’s been getting on the www.

First sentence: Eleven years ago, on my sixth birthday, my father disappeared.

Tales from the Tower, Volume 1: The Wilful Eye (302 pages) – six short stories by authors including Margaret Mahy, Margo Lanagan and Isobelle Carmody. The premise: each writer takes a classic fairytale and “casts their own spell upon it.” The results are stories for fairy tale enthusiasts who like their fairytales gritty and provocative, rather than happily ever after-ish.

First sentence (from ‘Catastrophic Disruption of the Head’ by Margo Lanagan): Who believes in his own death?

What I’ve been reading

I have just had three weeks off so finally a chance to lie on the beach and read through the pile of books that have been sitting on my must read list. These are the books that have stood out for me when reading the many reviews before making the decision to buy or not to buy.  It would be great to know what you think….

Trash, Andy Mulligan

In an unnamed third world country three young teens, Rat, Raphael, and Gardo live with thousands of other kids in a garbage dump. They dig through the rubbish looking for anything that could be profitable. One day Raphael unearths a leather bag containing a map, a wallet and a key. Keeping the discovery secret from the police the three boys soon find themselves in a mission involving a secret code, a corrupt politician and a search for six million dollars. The adventure is told through the voice of all characters, including their thoughts, feelings and perspective.

A gripping adventure story while also giving an insight into the lack of social justice that exists in parts of the world. If you enjoyed Slumdog millionaire give this a go.

 Unhooking the moon, Gregory Hughes

This is the author’s first novel and has won the Booktrust teenage prize!

It is a very unique story of two teenage orphans, Bob and his sister Marie Claire aka Rat who travel from Canada to New York in search of their uncle. Rat is a funny, football playing, singing, dancing and psychic ten year old and I was entranced.  Bob is her older brother and takes on the role of protector of his ‘crazy’ sister. The story follows the two through New York where they come across some very interesting characters including a drug dealer, up and coming rap-star and thieves. While the story itself is a page turner, for me this book was all about the characters. I would be keen to know what you think!

Boys don’t cry, Malorie Blackman

While Dante is waiting for his A level results he gets an unexpected visit from ex girlfriend, Melanie and her baby Emma. Her reason for the visit is to leave the baby in Dante’s care. All of a sudden Dante’s life is turned upside down as comes to grips with fatherhood at seventeen. As a sub plot Dante learns to accept his sixteen year old brother Adam’s homosexuality. This a genuinely moving story, that explores topics not widely covered in teen fiction.

Annexed, Sharon Dogar

Most of us know Anne Frank’s story, however this is a novel written from Peter’s point of view, who is also hiding in the annexe with his mother and father. When the story commences Peter is irritated by Anne but finds himself falling in love with her. As a result of his confinement Peter begins to question his religion, wondering why being Jewish has inspired such hatred. Anne’s diary ends in August 1944, however in ‘Annexed’ Peter’s story continues on beyond their betrayal and into the Nazi concentration camp.

While there has been controversy surrounding this book I found it powerful and engrossing.

New Books! And Magazines!

Hi! Here are some new books.

Bait, by Alex Sanchez (239 pages) – Sixteen-year-old Diego is in trouble with the law, and has a deeply troubled past. His probabation officer, Mr. Vidas, is able to bust through Diego’s shell and help him out and ‘navigate his rocky passage to maturity.’

First line: ‘“This is Mr. Vodas,” explained Diego’s court-appointed attorney as they headed into juvenile court.

Wolf Squadron : Special Operations, by Craig Simpson (318 pages) – Secret agents Finn, Loki, and Freya must head into enemy territory to rescue downed aircrew, Wolf Squadron, and a British double agent. Finn & Co. have escaped from Nazi-occupied Norway and now work for Special Operations, a secret agency led by old Winston Churchill himself.

First line: ‘“Stop it! Leave hinm be, you two. Can’t you see you’re frightening him?” Freya reached out and grasped my arm.

Wayfarer, by R. J. Anderson (296 pages) – Linden is a teenaged faerie whose people – the Faeries of the Oak – are endangered. She has the last of her people’s magic, and with human Timothy, must save the humans and the faeries from a potent and ancient eeeeevil.

First lines: ‘The Queen is dying. The knowledge sat in Linden’s belly like a cold stone as she hunched over the tub of greasy water, scrubbing her thirty-ninth plate.

Other, by Karen Kincy (326 pages) – Gwen is an ‘Other’, in that she belongs to the barely-tolerated group of vampires, centaurs, and other mythical creatures. In her small town, however, Others are not tolerated at all, and when they start turning up dead she – and a sexy guy/Japanese fox spirit – must find the killer.

First lines: ‘I can’t last much longer. It’s been on week, three days, and I forget how many hours.

Leftovers, by Heather Waldorf (198 pages) – When Sarah’s abusive father choked to death on a piece of steak, it was the best day of her life. Shortly afterwards, after a brush with the law, she ends up doing community service at a camp for shelter dogs. There she meets Judy (a dog) and Sullivan (a human).

First lines: ‘Ah, summer. Lazy mornings in bed, flipping through back issues of People and munching on chocolate chip waffles.

Marrying Ameera, by Rosanne Hawke (292 pages) – Seventeen-year-old Ameera Hassan is falling for her best friend’s brother, Tariq. Her traditionalist father learns of this and send her to Pakistan, to get married to some guy she’s not met. Desperate to leave, she makes a bid for freedom.

First line: ‘“Ameera!” I head my name and then the single toot; Riaz was in his car already.

Graffiti Moon, by Cath Crowley (264 pages) – Lucy is desperate to find the graffiti artist, Shadow, whose secretive nature means no one know who he is (a la Banksy). Some guy named Ed, who Lucy doesn’t want to see, says that he knows where to find him, and he takes her on ‘an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.

First lines: ‘I pedal fast. Down Rose Drive where houses swim in pools of orange streetlight.

Split, by Stefan Petrucha (257 pages) – After his mother’s death, Wade can not decide whether to become a musician or a scholar. So he splits his mind into two and becomes both. But soon these two worlds begin to collide, and Wade will need to ‘save himself’.

First line: ‘I’m staring at Mom’s face, a face I’ve seen at least as often as the sun or the moon, only something’s gone from it now.

Witch Breed, by Alan Gibbons (311 pages) – Book four in the aptly titled Hell’s Underground series, about the demonic entity under London. In this volume, Paul travels to the 1700s when it was an especially rough time for women accused of witchcraft.

First lines: ‘‘Tell me you will never forget me.’ The quill pen falters on the page.

Moment of Truth : The Laws of Magic Book 5, by Michael Pryor (442 pages) – I will quote a comment from Gill when we wrote about the fourth book in this series: ‘Laws of Magic is a wild steampunk fantasy adventure with nice touches of humour and even romance. It’s a world like ours just before WW1 but with magic. Lots of spying and plots and assassinations and misunderstandings. The main characters, Aubrey Fitzwilliam, is the son of the prime minister and he’s also sort of dead thanks to a magical experiment gone wrong. He’s involved with his friends in adventures. Great books!’

First lines: ‘Aubrey Fitzwilliam was on a mission. Determined, unwavering, purposeful, he would not be diverted from his goal, especially since spring was in the air.

Operation Ocean Emerald : A Luke Baron Adventure, by Ilkka Remes (307 pages) – Fourteen-year-old Luke Baron sneaks aboard the luxurious cruise ship, The Ocean Emerald, and encounters a criminal gang who have captured the ship. Only he can escape and save everyone.  The cover (ominously!) features an exploding cruise liner!

First line: ‘Luke was looking at the computer games and didn’t notice a thing when Toni slipped the DVD into his shoulder bag.

And this week’s magazines:

Transworld Skateboarding October 2010 – Skateboarding | skateboarding | skateboarding! | skateboarding? | shoes
Dolly October 2010 – What to do when your friends ditch you | Bonus! Quiz book inside | Denim again, but with polka dots?!
Entertainment Weekly #1122 – Modern Family | Reviews, and more

A Collection of New Books

Jump, Elisa Carbone (255 pages) – “a high-adrenaline love story”. P K and Critter both love rock climbing. P K is desperate to leave town, and her parents, and Critter comes along for the ride and they rock-climb their way out west (States), until the police eventually show up and decisions have to be made.

First sentence: Things I know to be true: 1 I am not my body.

The Princess and the Bear and The Princess and the Snowbird, Mette Ivie Harrison – magical, time travelling and shape-shifting books (the first in the series being The Princess and the Hound) with a hint of historical romance.

First sentence for the bear: Long ago, there lived a wild cat that was the sleekest, fastest, and bravest of its kind.

And the snowbird: Thousands of years ago, before humans ruled the world, the snowbirds flew above the earth and watched over the flow of the first, pure aur-magic, spreading the power to all, and making sure that every creature had a share.

Fallen Grace, Mary Hooper (294 pages) – Google Books says “A stunning evocation of life in Victorian London, with vivid and accurate depictions, ranging from the deprivation that the truly poor suffered to the unthinking luxuries enjoyed by the rich: all bound up with a pacy and thrilling plot, as Grace races to unravel the fraud about to be perpetrated against her and her sister.”

First sentence: Grace, holding on tightly to her precious burden, found the station entrance without much difficulty.

Illyria, Elizabeth Hand (135 pages) – Madeline and Rogan, who are cousins, have an intense passion for each other and for the stage. A “creepy”, spooky short novel about a forbidden love, and the winner of the World Fantasy Award.

First sentence: Rogan and I were cousins; our fathers were identical twins.

The Karma Club, Jessica Brody (258 pages) – when Maddy’s boyfriend is caught cheating on her with the perfect girl, and they become the hot new couple, Maddy and her other friends form The Karma Club, “to clean up the messes that the universe has been leaving behind.” High jinks ensue, but also a right mess.

First sentence: I can tell you right now, it’s all Karma’s fault.

My Double Life, Janette Rallison (265 pages) – Lexi discovers that she is a dead ringer for a famous rock star, so she gets paid to be her body double. This might sound like an ideal sort of job, but really life isn’t like that, it’s much more complicated.

First sentence: I didn’t want to write this.

Classic (An It Girl novel – 227 pages) – the latest in the Jenny Humphrey series, where she’s trying to work out why her new boyfriend Isaac is acting “skittish”, and all other sorts of intrigue is going on, which you get at exclusive academies.

First sentence: The cold February wind whipped across the snow-covered Waverly Academy fields, cutting right through Easy Walsh’s thick Patagonia jacket.

Jealousy, Lili St Crow (A Strange Angels novel – 316 pages) – Dru has made it to her exclusive academy equivalent (the Schola Prima, a djamphir training facility). Sergej still wants to suck her blood, or tear her “to shreds”, Graves and Christophe still hate each other and now there’s Anna, who wants to show Dru who’s on top, and who’s after Christophe.

First sentence: I am lying in a narrow single bed in a room no bigger than a closet, in a tiny apartment.

The Thin Executioner, Darren Shan (483 pages) – inspired by The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and therefore a road trip type adventure book with horror twists, The Thin Executioner sees Jebel Rum travelling to the home of a fire god in order to get inhuman powers that will make him the most lethal human ever (the thin executioner), taking with him his human slave sacrifice. Things may well get dodgy along the way.

First sentence: The executioner swung his axe – thwack! – and another head went rolling into the dust.

The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya, Nagaru Tangigawa (210 pages) – a novel speckled with manga illustrations. Haruhi is the ringleader of her school’s S.O.S. Brigade, who must keep her from getting bored, because when she gets bored bad things happen and she actually has the power to destroy the world.

First (fabulous) sentence: Looking back, the memorable inauguration of the SOS Brigade, which had left me, not Haruhi, in a state of melancholy, had been back in the beginning of spring, and the incident involving the production of the independent film, which, naturally, had forced me, not Haruhi, to sigh, had technically happened in autumn if you go by the calendar.

Lost for Words, Alice Kuipers (210 pages) – the story of Sophie, who wants to forget the difficult, tragic past but is haunted by it as she struggles to make sense of her life, her friendships and her future.

First sentence: I look at the words, black like inky spiders, and watch the webs they weave.

Divided Souls, Gabriella Poole (A Darke Academy book – 298 pages) – Cassie – new to the academy – is enjoying Istanbul, but she is also torn between old and new loves. She must also choose between old friends and the Few, plus there is a killer on the hunt.

First sentence: This was no chore.

The Demon’s Covenant, Sarah Rees Brennan (440 pages) – a follow up to The Demon’s Lexicon, which got good reviews. Mae’s brother Jamie has started showing magical abilities, and Gerald (an unlikely name for a power-hungry magician?) is after him for his coven.

First sentence: “Any minute now,” Rachel said, “something terrible is going to happen to us.”

Mistwood, Leah Cypress (304 pages) – this intriguing blurb here: “The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwood. But when she is needed she always comes.”

First sentence: She knew every inch of the forest, every narrow path that twisted and wound its way beneath the silver branches.

Folly, Marthe Jocelyn (246 pages) – cool cover. A tale set in Victorian London about three lives intertwined; a somewhat innocent if commonsensical country girl, a heartthrob cad and a young orphan boy. Sounds entertaining.

First sentence: I began excceeding ignorant, apart from what a girl can learn through family mayhem, a dead mother, a grim stepmother, and a sorrowful parting from home.

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson (343 pages) – Amy’s mother wants her to drive the family car from California to Connecticut (aka a very long way), but she’s not been able to get herself to since her dad died. Roger comes to her rescue, a friend of the family (friends of the family not usually being romantic possibilities, specially not ones called Roger), and so they set off and on the way Amy learns “sometimes you have to get lost in order to find your way home.” Another road trip!

First sentence(ish): I sat on the front steps of my house and watched the beige Subaru station wagon swing too quickly around the cul-de-sac.

Free as a Bird, Gina McMurchy-Barber (160 pages) – Ruby Jean has Down syndrome and when her grandmother dies she’s sent to Woodlands School, originally opened in the 19th century as a lunatic assylum. There she learns to survive the horrors of life.

First sentence: My name’s Ruby Jean Sharp an I growed up in Woodlands School.

We’ve also got: new The Vampire Diaries books with the TV tie-in covers (look out for The Struggle at your library). Cirque Du Freak manga.

What’s on the new book horizon?

Here’s a mixed bag of books we’ve ordered recently – take your pick and reserve what grabs your fancy.

Geektastic: stories from the nerd herd. Don’t let the title put you off! There’s nothing wrong with being a geek, especially if being a geek comes in the form of an anthology of stories written by people like John Green, Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld, and M. T. Anderson. You can’t really lose. The blurb says subjects are many and varied (in the context of geekdom) from the faintly ridiculous (what happens when Klingons and Jedi collide at a sci-fi convention?) to the more serious (a 15 year old pretends to be her 32 year old sister online). Should stop typing now.

Intertwined, by Gena Showalter. More supernatural romance! Ah. Aden has a tough time because he has four beings inside his head, each providing him with a specific supernatural power. Mary Ann has the one power that Aden needs, the ability to negate supernatural powers, and it is with her that Aden finds peace (and romance perhaps?). But then their world is complicated by more supernatural creatures than you can poke a stick at, all after a new source of power.

In the path of falling objects, by Andrew Smith. Another road trip story (adding to the list), this one sounds a bit rugged: Jonah and Simon are on their own, trying to track down their family. They hitch a ride with a man and a “beautiful young woman” who are both disturbing and potentially dangerous. Set during the Vietnam War.

Once a witch, by Carolyn MacCullough. Tamsin lives in a talented (in the magic sense) family, but she isn’t. When a strange and sinister man arrives and mistakes her for her twin (talented) sister and requests her help in searching for a “family heirloom”, Tamsin jumps at the opportunity to appear magical. This is exciting, reviewers say.

And some other serious stuff:

Almost perfect, by Brian Katcher. A transgender story from a writer who likes to challenge people’s assumptions about the norm.

Positively, by Courtney Sheinmel. Emmy is left to struggle with the HIV virus that her now-dead mother unwittingly passed on to her.

Breathing underwater, by Julia Green. Freya comes to terms with the sudden death of her brother.

Taken, by Norah McClintock. Stephanie is taken hostage in the woods, but escapes and must use all her survivalist knowledge to make it back home. Tense.

We’ll keep you posted on more interesting things. Thanks to Stephanie for the tip offs.

Beautiful new books & DVDs

Remember This, by S. T. Underdahl (282 pages) – Lucy’s looking foward to summer. But she embarrasses herself when trying out for the cheerleading team, ends up dating a boy she previously disliked, and has to watch her grandmother suffer from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

First sentences: ‘Remember this: I love you. It was the special saying my Nana Lucy and I had for each other, ever since I was tiny.

Sword : A Novel, by Da Chen (232 pages) – Martial arts expert Miu Miu turns fifteen and is told by her mother about her father’s violent death. Miu Miu is asked to avenge her father, and to find her fated true love, all in the faraway city of Chang’an. The Emperor has ‘other plans’.

First sentence: ‘On the morning of Miu Miu’s fifteenth birthday, her mother did not arrange a visit by a matchmaker, as all the mothers of Goose Village did when their daughters reached marriageable age.

The Bloodstone Bird, by Inbali Iserles (326 pages) – Sash finds a riddle in his father’s study, which leads him – and his enemy, Verity – on the search for a magical bird. Their search takes them to a dazzling new world.

First sentence: ‘“In the beginning, Aqarti was a lush paradise surrounded by endless sea.”

Sharp Shot, by Jack Higgins and Justin Richards (297 pages) – Twins Jade and Rich are kidnapped and find themselves at the centre of a deadly plot, involving the first Gulf War and explosives. This is the third book in a series.

First sentence: ‘John Chance raised his powerful binoculars and focused on the low building on the other side of the sand dune.

The Other Side of the Island : A Novel, by Allegra Goodman (280 pages) – Honor and her family move to Island 365, where the weather is always nice, there’s no unhappiness or violence, and everyone prays to Earth Mother and her Corporation. Honor and her family don’t fit in, however, and she meets Helix; together they uncover a terrible secret about the island.

First sentence: ‘All this happened many years ago, before the streets were air-conditioned.

Crushed : A Year in Girl Hell, by Meredith Costain (137 pages) – It’s Lexi’s first year of high school and life is changing fast. Her friends split up and Lexi has to choose between her old friends and her new, cooler friends. And she develops a crush on Jack, one of the cool kids. For younger teens.

First sentence: ‘“Lexi, can you hurry up please?”

Undiscovered Country : A Novel, by Lin Enger (308 pages) – Seventeen-year-old Jesse is out hunting with his father in Minnesota on a cold, wintery day. His father is shot; and it looks like he had killed himself. His father’s ghost begins to haunt Jesse, and he soon uncovers family secrets and his own, new responsibility. This book is a ‘bold reinvention’ of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

First sentence: ‘As I write this, I am sitting in the kitchen of the small house where we’ve lived now for a decade.

Fouth Comings : A Novel, by Megan McCafferty (310 pages) – This is the fourth Jessica Darling book and it will be very difficult to summarise in my usual two or three sentences. But if you’ve read the others you will be hanging out for this (I know Grimm will probably be first to read it).

First sentence: ‘”Waiting sucks.” The voice was male and came from behind my right shoulder.

Bliss, by Lauren Myracle (444 pages) – Bliss has grown up in a Californian commune, and is sent to live with her strict grandmother and to study at Crestview, an exclusive school for the rich with an old, dark history. There she is targetted by Sandy, a girl obsessed with the occult. A ‘contagiously creepy tale of high school horror.’

First sentence: ‘Grandmother won’t tolerate occultism, even of the nose-twitching sort made so adorable by Samantha Stevens, so I’m not allowed to watch Bewitched.’

In brief:
The Beginner’s Guide to Living, by Lia Hills (248 pages)
A Small Free Kiss in the Dark, by Glenda Millard (225 pages)
Dead is a State of Mind, by Marlene Perez (175 pages)
Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, retold by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Chris Riddell (347 pages)
Saving Sam, by Susan Brocker (192 pages)

New DVDs:
Skykids (Rated M) – Two friends sneak aboard a plane for a look and it takes off. They discover a bomb and then – to compound the dire situation further – realise that they’re the only ones left on board.
Grange Hill Series 1 & 2 (Rated PG) – Grange Hill was a British drama series about a group of kids at a high school. It lasted from 1978 until late last year. This DVD collects the first two series. Very retro. Maybe.

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