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.
In time for the long weekend (happy Queen’s Birthday to you)!
The Dreamwalker’s Child, by Steve Voake (300 pages) – Young Sam lives in the country and hates it. He has no pals and everything is relaxed and peaceful slow and dull. Until he’s in an accident which sticks him in a coma. However! His mind wakes in another world run by giant smart insects who want to wupe humanity from the face of Earth with mosquito-spread disease. It’s up to Sam and his allies to stop this from happening.
First line: ‘When they are first born, most people find the world a fascinating, magical place.‘
The Girl in the Mask, by Marie-Louise Jensen (311 pages) – It is 1715 or so, and Sophie’s duty is to look pretty and get hitched ASAP. She hate all the balls and dances and so on required of her, so when it’s dark she secretly moonlights as a highway robber. Which seems reasonable. She also gets involved with the failed Stuart rebellion, just to add a touch of historical context.
First lines: ‘I didn’t hear my cousin’s voice at first. It wasn’t until the library door was flung open with a bang, making me jump, that I came back down to earth.‘
The Calling, by Kelley Armstrong (326 pages) – This is the second book in the Darkness Rising series (the first is The Gathering). Maya. who has a pawprint birthmark and can talk to animals (I think?), and her similarly supernatural friends have all been kidnapped. They escape! And are now being chased through the Vancouver wilds.
First line: ‘I don’t know who was more anxious – Daniel or Kenjii – but they weren’t making this emergency helicopter evacuation and easier.‘
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (372 pages) – In a vast virtual reality world (designed by Willy Wonka’s futuristic twin), Wade Watts escapes the ecological wasteland that is Earth in 2044. The world’s founder died a few years previously and had left his fortune to whoever can solve numerous 1980s-pop-culture riddles throughout the world. 1980s pop culture! Well I am sold. Ready Player One has been showered with praise and awards probably and I think a movie is on its way.
First line: ‘Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when the first heard about the contest. I was sitting in my hideout watching cartoons when the news bulletin broke in on my video feed, announcing the James Halliday had died during the night.’
From Grimm, since Simon is sickathomewithacold:
Lovetorn, by Kavita Daswani (250 pages) – Shalini has moved from India to Los Angeles, which is a rather large cultural shock (accent, hair, clothes etc.). Additionally, and most differently of all, she is set to marry Vikram (and has been almost her whole life). Then there’s Toby at school, who is bound to turn Shalini’s sense of her destiny on its head.
First sentence: In a carved wooden frame on my mother’s bedside table sits a photograph of me taken on the day that I got engaged.
The Difference Between You and Me, by Madeleine George (256 pages) – Jesse and Emily are really rather different. One is an activist (or rather, the only member of NOLAW – the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos) the other is vice president of the student council. But they are attracted to one another. Things get complicated when they end up on opposite sides of an issue – what will win over, their relationship or their commitment to their causes?
First sentence: Jesse is in the sophomore hall girls’ bathroom, the farthest stall from the door, one huge, scuffed fisherman’s boot propped up on the toilet seat so she can balance her backpack on her knee and rifle through it.
Trafficked, by Kim Purcell (384 pages) – Hannah struggles to look after her grandmother in Moldova, so she leaps at the chance to go to Los Angeles to work as a nanny. However, the family treats her like a captive slave, and when she is caught sneaking out the house to visit Colin, her neighbour, she is threatened with prostitution. Hannah, fortunately, has a lot of gumption, and her investigations into her employers captors may lead to the truth about a missing uncle who disappeared mysteriously in Moldova, but they may also put her in danger.
First sentence: Hannah took two small steps forward in the immigration line entering America at LAX.
When the Sea is Rising Red, by Cat Hellisen (296 pages) – Felicita lives an elite life as a member of Pelimburg’s founding family, but she has few choices. When her friend throws herself off a cliff rather than marry the man she’s been assigned to, Felicita fakes her own suicide and escapes to the city’s slums. There she meets Dash (a “charismatic renegade”, what’s not to like?) and the vampire Jannik. Things take a turn for the disturbing when pale corpses begin washing up on the beach. In her death, Felicita’s friend has (maybe unknowingly?) unleashed some sinister magic from the sea, which those who want to overthrow the powerful classes of Pelimburg might use to start a rebellion.
First sentence: She’s not here.
Frost, Marianna Baer (396 pages) – Strange goings on are going on at Frost House, a boarding school with a rather creepy name. Door slam, pictures fall off walls. Leena’s room mate, Celeste, thinks it’s the other students trying to scare her off, but Leena is not so sure, and fears increasingly for her safety: “does the threat lie with her new roommate, within Leena’s own mind… or in Frost House itself?” (book cover). Warning: this book may also contain a love interest named David.
First sentence: Before I lived here, before any of this happened, I imagined Frost House as a sanctuary.
Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am, Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis (148 pages) – Ben is a bit of a star: he’s bright, popular, and talented. He surprises everyone when he enlists in the army straight out of high school, saying he feels compelled to serve his country. But things go horribly wrong when he’s serving in Iraq, and Ben returns with a brain injury: he comes back hardly able to speak or walk, and with no memory of who he is.
First sentence: The knife came out of nowhere.
There is, we hope, something for almost everyone in this week’s selection of new books!
Endure, Carrie Jones (262 pages) – This is the climactic conclusion to Zara’s story! “When evil pixies cause mass destruction and chaos in Bedford, Maine, sixteen-year-old Zara prepares for war, aligning her team of pixies with the humans she loves so much, a task made more difficult by her growing feelings for pixie king Astley.” (catalogue) Nick, or Astley? Astley, or Nick? I couldn’t decide!
First sentences: “Do you want some more spaghetti?” Nick’s voice is so abrupt and unespected that it actually makes me jump in the dining room chair.
This might possibly be a bit like: Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr; Wings, Aprilynne Pike; Abandon, Meg Cabot.
The Last Echo, Kimberly Derting (360 pages) – the next in the Body Finder series. Violet is now working with a special investigative team, and hopes that her ability to sense the dead will do some good, and save lives and catch killers. But her life is about to get very complicated: she has a connection with Rafe, her partner, which creates tension with her boyfriend, Jay. And then “the collector” appears to have her in his sights: will she be his next victim?
First sentence: Violet strained, searching for the sensation through the suffocating blackness.
This might possibly be a bit like: The Dark Divine, Bree Despain; The Vision, Jen Nadol; Deadly Little Voices, Laurie Faria Stolarz.
Radiant Days, Elizabeth Hand (287 pages) – Merle is in her first year of art school and it’s 1978. Arthur Rimbaud is a young poet on the verge of genius and it’s 1870. “The meshed power of words and art thins the boundaries between the present and the past – and allows these two troubled, brilliant artists to enter each other’s worlds.” (cover) Arthur Rimbaud really was a teenage poet.
First sentence: Clea was twenty-three, five years older than me.
This might possibly be a bit like: Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly; Francesca Lia Block.
The Book of Blood and Shadow, Robin Wasserman (431 pages) – “While working on a project translating letters from sixteenth-century Prague, high school senior Nora Kane’s best friend is murdered, with her boyfriend the apparent killer. She is caught up in a dangerous web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all searching for a mysterious ancient device purported to allow direct communication with God.” (catalogue) A new thriller from the author of Skinned!
First sentence: I should probably start with the blood.
The Final Four, Paul Volponi (244 pages) – Four basketball players face off in college basketball’s equivalent of the NBA play-offs. As the clock ticks down we find out how they all came to be here – and eventually (we hope!) who will win: the Spartans or the Trojans? (Will history repeat?)
First sentence: Just because the game clock has stopped, don’t believe for a single second that the hearts of the ten basketball players on the court have quite pounding.
The Berlin Boxing Club, Robert Sharenow (403 pages) – Karl Stern is a Jewish boy living in Berlin. Hitler’s Nazi party is in power, and even though Karl’s family are not practising Jews, they are under attack, and Karl longs to prove his worth. Max Schmeling is a German boxing champion who makes a deal with Karl’s father – he will give Karl boxing lessons. Through these lessons Karl gains the confidence to protect his family, but at the same time things are escalating towards World War 2. Max Schmeling really was a boxing champion.
First sentence: As Herr Boch finished the last lecture of the school year, I sketched one final caricature of him into the margins of my notebook.
Deadly Little Voices, Laurie Faria Stolarz (343 pages) – this is the second to last book in the Touch series. Camelia feels like she’s on the brink of losing it: not only can she sense the future, but now she can also hear voices, telling her she’s worthless. So, when she senses that someone’s in danger can she hold it together to help them?
First sentence: A voice startles me awake.
This might possibly be a bit like: The Dark Divine, Bree Despain; The Vision, Jen Nadol; The Last Echo, Kimberly Derting.
The Obsidian Blade, Pete Hautman (308 pages) – and this, the cover tells me, is the first book of The Klaatu Diskos. What then is the Klaatu Diskos? This is a hint: “The first time Tucker saw the disk, his father disappeared into thin air. The Reverend Adrian Feye had climbed onto the roof to fix a loose shingle – and suddenly he was gone. An hour later, the Reverend came walking up the road, tattered and sunburned, bringing with him an unspeaking, yellow-haired, dark-eyed girl.” (cover)
First sentence: The first time his father disappeared, Tucker Feye had only just turned thirteen.
This might possibly be a bit like: I Am Number Four, Pittacus Lore; 172 Hours on the Moon, Johan Harstad.
Catch & Release, Blythe Woolston (210 pages) – a road trip! Polly and Odd have had one of your worst nightmares – a flesh-eating bacterial infection, and many reconstructive surgeries as a result. Now their epic future plans are derailed, so they head off to Oregon in a classy car for a spot of fly fishing (and perhaps some more worrying adventures?).
First sentence: I would have recognized the guy even if he hadn’t driven up in a truck with Estes Equipment on the door, wearing an Estes Equipment hat and an Estes Equipment shirt with ‘Buck’ embroidered above the pocket.”
Beneath a Meth Moon, Jacqueline Woodson (182 pages) – Laurel loses her mother and grandmother in Hurricane Katrina and turns to crystal meth to cope. Can she grieve, move on, and beat her addiction? We hope so :-\
First sentence: It’s almost winter again and the cold moves through this town like water washing over us.
Poison Heart, S B Hayes (360 pages) – “From the moment Katy sees Genevieve’s beautiful face staring at her from a window, her life will never be the same. Wherever Katy turns, Genevieve is there – at school, with Katy’s friends, and worst of all, in Katy’s hot new boyfriend’s life. But Genevieve has a menacing side, a dangerous side, a threatening side that she only reveals to Katy: I’m your worst nightmare. When Genevieve’s behaviour becomes increasingly twisted, Katy delves into the girl’s past, with the help of her best friend Luke. Nothing prepares her for the dark truths that she discovers, or the new romance she finds along the way. Is Genevieve a troubled girl with a difficult childhood? Or is the truth unearthly and much more frightening? Who is the real Genevieve? What are her secrets? Why is she determined to destroy Katy’s life?” (catalogue)
First sentence: We were on the number fifty-seven bus when it happened – the moment that would change my life forever.
The Jade Notebook, Laura Resau (365 pages) – this is a companion novel to The Indigo Notebook and The Ruby Notebook. Zeeta and her mother have been traveling the globe, but finally settle in Mazunte, Mexico, where Zeeta’s boyfriend, Wendell, is spending time photographing sea turtles (as you do). Zeeta feels like Mazunte could be home, but when she and Wendell begin finding out information about her mysterious father’s past, Zeeta starts to see a darker side to her home.
First sentence: At sunset, Comet Point feels like the tip of the world.
Promise the Night, Michaela MacColl (262 pages) – this is based on the life of Beryl Markham, who was the first pilot to fly solo from England to North America. But this is not about the flying, but earlier: Beryl lives with her father on a huge ranch in British East Africa, with only her mother’s dog, Buller, for company. When one day Buller is attacked and taken by a leopard, Beryl promises to rescue him (as you would!). Which might be good training for being daring enough to fly solo across the Atlantic.
First sentence: Beryl sat bolt upright, her heart beating faster.
Skin Deep, Laura Jarratt (376 pages) – “After the car crash that leaves her best friend dead, Jenna struggles to rebuild her life. But every stare in the street, every glance in the mirror, makes her want to hide away. And then Ryan turns up – a tall, good-looking traveller unlike anyone Jenna’s met before.” (cover) Yay Ryan.
First sentence: The stereo thumps out a drumbeat.
The Emerald Flame, Frewin Jones (344 pages) – more adventures from Branwen, the Warrior Princess. Branwen has come to accept that she’s the one to save her country from imminent invasion by the Saxons. This is no small task, and one filled with danger and the threat of disaster. We wonder if guidance from the spirits, and the trusty Rhodi and “sometimes maddening” Iwan, are enough support?
First sentence: A profound darkness had fallen among the close-packed oaks, and it felt to Branwen ap Griffith as though she and her small band of riders were wading through a flood tide of shadows, thick as black water.
Vixen, Jillian Larkin (385 pages) – the first book in a new series called The Flappers. “The roaring twenties where anything goes…The first in a sparkling new trilogy full of romance, dancing and secrecy. Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria wants the glamorous flapper lifestyle. Now that she’s engaged to the heir of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun… or are they? Clara, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch – but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears… Lorraine, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry.” (catalogue)
First sentence: She didn’t feel like wearing a garter tonight.
This week’s selection is brought to you by heart shaped things, sunglasses, and a whole lot of love.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Saenz (359 pages) – Dante and Ari are opposites (the cover tells me in detail), so opposite that in fact they probably shouldn’t attract, but they do! “In breathtaking prose, American Book Award winner Benjamin Alires Saenz captures those moments that make a boy a man as he explores loyalty and trust, friendship and love” (cover!).
First sentence: One summer night I fell asleep, hoping the world would be different when I woke.
Love? Maybe, Heather Hepler (267 pages) – a Valentine’s Day story! Piper’s birthday is Valentine’s Day, which may be one of the reasons why she’s a bit cynical about the whole thing. But when her one best friend suffers a broken heart two weeks before the BIG DAY, she agrees to get involved in a plot to restore said heart, even if it means going on a date herself. All of a sudden everything is warm and fuzzy for Piper: her heart shaped lollies are a hit (see cover), she has a popular boyfriend, and someone’s leaving secret gifts in her locker.
First sentence: Claire tells me it’s romantic that my birthday is on Valentine’s Day, but then she thinks it’s romantic when Stuart remembers to say excuse me after he burps.
The Darlings in Love, Melissa Kantor (311 pages) – The Darlings are three best friends, Victoria, Natalya and Jane (as seen in The Darlings are Forever), and they fall in love! This could lead to happiness, or heartbreak, or both! (Preferrably in reverse order.)
First sentence: Natalya pulled her dark blue winter jacket more tightly around her, shivering in the sharp January wind as she waited for the light to change.
The Disenchantments, Nina LaCour (307 pages) – Colby and Bev are in a band – The Disenchantments – and the plan is to graduate and tour Europe. But Bev disenchants The Disenchantments when she announces she’s ditching them to go off on her own travels. So plans must change, and the band swaps Europe for the Pacific Northwest, and the future becomes much less certain.
First sentence: Bev says when she’s onstage she feels the world holding its breath for her.
Love & Haight, Susan Carlton (176 pages) – In 1971 Chloe and MJ have a plan to travel to San Francisco to spend the Christmas/New Year break with Chloe’s hippy aunt. Chloe has a second plan, involving her secret, unwanted pregnancy. Reviewers say this book is an interesting historical account of 1970s San Francisco, hippy culture, and some of the serious social issues of the time.
First sentences: The view was wrong. That’s what Chloe kept thinking.
Glimmer, Phoebe Kitandis (347 pages) – Oo. Marshal and Elyse wake up one day “tangled in each other’s arms” but also with amnesia. They have no idea how they came to be in Summer Falls, a resort town, but they do know that something’s amiss: the town’s people are “happy zombies” with no memory of unpleasant things, even though there are indeed unpleasant things in Summer Falls…
First sentence: I come to life with a gasp in the darkness.
The Story of Us, Deb Caletti (389 pages) – “After jilting two previous fiances, Cricket’s mother is finally marrying the right man, but as wedding attendees arrive for a week of festivities, complications arise for Cricket involving her own love life, her beloved dog Jupiter, and her mother’s reluctance to marry.” (catalogue)
First sentence: I found out something about myself as all those boxes piled up: I hated change.
Dragonswood, Janet Lee Carey (403 pages) – When the king dies, Wilde Island is thrown into turmoil as the royal witch hunter goes on, well, a witch-hunting rampage, determined to root out an young women with “fire in their hearts and sparks in their soul”. This is unfortunate for Tess, who wants the things in life that fire and sparks give (i.e. not just a husband and house). She’s accused of witchery and forced to run to Dragonswood, to take refuge with an “enigmatic huntsman”, who sounds interesting.
First sentences: I am seven years old. My father takes me to a witch burning.
The Mephisto Covenant, Trinity Faegen (434 pages) – “Jax, a son of Hell, and Sasha, a descendent of Eve, unexpectedly find love, but Sasha must sacrifice the purity of her soul to save him while he struggles to keep her safe from his brother Eryx, whose mission is to take over Hell and abolish humanity’s free will.” (catalogue)
First sentence: “Your father’s ring is gone! That slime, Alex, took it – I know he did.”
Bewitching, Alex Flinn (338 pages) – in which we read about Kendra, who was responsible for the Beast becoming Beastly in Beastly. Kendra is an immortal, who finds that her interfering in human life sometimes makes problems worse rather than better. So, when she comes across Emma, a modern-day plain step-sister, can she stop herself from getting involved?
First sentence: If you read fairy tales, and who doesn’t, you might believe there are witches all over the place – witches baking children into gingerbread, making princesses sleep hundreds of years, even turning normal teenage boys into hideous beasts to teach them a lesson.
Grave Mercy, Robin LaFevers
Ismae is a peasant girl living in 15th Century Brittany. Just after her wedding to a violent pig farmer, Ismae is rescued by the herbwitch who tried to poison her before she was born (but you wouldn’t quibble: the pig farmer is horrid) and whisked away to a mysterious convent. The sisters of the convent of St Mortain aren’t your average nuns. Mortain is merely masquerading as a saint: he’s an ancient god; Death, actually. Ismae is, she learns, a daughter of Mortain; immune to poison and with a natural gift for killing, and the sisters are assassins, using their skills to ensure the Duchy of Brittany remains independant from the looming, malignant France.
That’s basically the background to Grave Mercy, the first book in the His Fair Assassin series, which is getting great reviews from the lofty New York Times to blogger-reviewers, like here or here. I read the whole book in pretty much a day. It’s an action-packed historical novel with some romance, mystical magic, and a few gory endings, and I liked it!
172 Hours on the Moon, Johan Harstad (351 pages) – as reported a little earlier, this one’s a space travel thriller, where a trip to the moon would seem to be the opportunity of a lifetime for three teens, but only one will make it back.
First sentence: “Gentlemen, it’s time,” Dr ______ [suspiciously blacked out name] said, eyeing the seven men in suits around the large conference table.
Cross My Heart, Sasha Gould (263 pages) – set in 16th century Venice. Laura is safely installed in a convent, until her sister unexpectedly dies, and Laura’s father takes her back home, to marry her sister’s odious old fiance. Doom! Luckily, Laura manages to escape this fate, and earn her way into a secret society of women – The Segreta – whose secrets may or may not be deadly, and may be linked to her sister’s untimely demise. The cover says “clandestine romance, political intrigue, and deadly secrets”.
First sentence: His gondola slips through the water like a knife cutting into dark silk.
The One Dollar Horse, Lauren St John (309 pages) – Casey Blue lives in a tower block in East London but dreams of winning the Badminton Horse Trials (which is as far away from a tower block in London as you can get really). When she rescues a starving horse, it seems like she might be a little bit on her way, but her past (and a boy with “melty, dark eyes”) might derail her.
First sentence: Casey used the twin points of her horse’s ears to line up the jump, like a sniper lining up a target on a gun barrel.
Love-shy, Lili Wilkinson (309 pages) – Penny is a journalist-in-training, and works on the school newspaper. When she finds a boy posting on a “love-shy forum” anonymously, she decides she is going to discover who he is, and write a feature article. But who is the love-shy boy?
First sentence: “I found a story.”
Chopsticks, Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral (unpaged) – unlike your average novel: “In a love story told in photographs and drawings, Glory, a brilliant piano prodigy, is drawn to Frank, an artistic new boy, and the farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness until the only song she is able to play is ‘Chopsticks.’” (Catalogue)
First sentence: [photo of sunlight through an oak tree].
Preloved, Shirley Marr (272 pages) – Amy’s life is full of hassles (mother, friend, reputation, etc etc). She certainly doesn’t need to be haunted by a 1980s ghost called Logan, who’s either dangerous, annoying, or the ideal boy.
First sentence: Whenever my mum decided to give me advice, it often sounded like this: “Amy, don’t bring an open umbrella into the house, because a ghost might be hiding under it.”
Stir It Up!, Ramin Ganeshram (166 pages) – Anjali lives above her parents’ roti shop in Queens (NY), where she develops a passion for cooking, but her dream of becoming a celebrity chef doesn’t sit well with her traditional Trinidadian parents. When the chance to be a part of a reality TV cooking show arises, Anjali jumps: are her dreams about to be realised?
First sentence: My heart pounds as I race around the kitchen with Deema, filling orders, trying not to get behind.
Tessa Masterson Will go to Prom, Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin (256 pages) – from the people who brought you Jenna & Jonah’s Fauxmance. Lucas and Tessa are best friends, have been forever. Lucas wishes they were more, so when he finally comes out, and asks Tessa to the prom, his world is shaken when Tessa, in turn, comes out as a lesbian. Lucas feels betrayed that she has kept this a secret from him for so long, and when Tessa decides to go to the prom with her girlfriend – and dressed in a tux – and comes under fire as a result, will she be able to count on her best friend for support?
First sentence: Before you read the paper or watch tonight’s news, before you grab the Time magazine in your orthodontist’s office or dig into the police report, before the protesters’ shouts distract you, you should hear the whole thing from the beginning.
Between the Sea and Sky, Jaclyn Dolamore (229 pages) – “Esmerine, a mermaid, grows close to her childhood playmate Alander, a winged man, when they join forces to find her sister Dosia, who has reportedly eloped with a human despite the sisters’ vow to always keep the sea and its people first in their hearts.” (catalogue) “With subtle echoes of Pride and Prejudice” says the cover, which just adds to the charm.
First sentence: It was not every day that a mermaid became a siren, and not every day that Esmerine attended such a party.
Rock On, Denise Vega (297 pages) – Ori has lived a bit in his brother Del’s shadow, but with Del safely away at college, Ori’s chance to step into the spotlight arises. Ori and his band (called The Band to Be Named Later, or TBTBNL) are competing in The Battle of the Bands, and Ori’s the lead singer. But then Del comes back from college, and expects things to revert to the way they were. Can Ori overcome his confidence issues with his brother, and be a true lead singer? Can TBTBNL also win Battle of the Bands glory? Perhaps.
Last sentence: Rock and roll, baby.
This week’s selection! Quite a serious bunch, this one.
Ripper, Stefan Petrucha (426 pages) – “Adopted by famous Pinkerton Agency Detective Hawking in 1895 New York, fourteen-year-old Carver Young hopes to find his birth father, but when he becomes involved in the pursuit of notorious killer Jack the Ripper, Carver discovers that finding the truth can be worse than ignorance” (catalogue summary). Creepy! We all love Jack the Ripper stories of course.
First sentences: “Let me show you a secret.” Elizabeth B. Rowley liked the man’s confidence.
Take a Bow, Elizabeth Eulberg (280 pages) – set at a performing arts school (remember my name! fame!). Emme, Sophie, Carter and Ethan are all performers, with varying backgrounds and concerns in their senior year, but they all feel the pressure to perform well in the senior recital, to cement their future careers.
First sentence: My life has been one big audition.
Wanderlove, Kirsten Hubbard (338 pages) – Bria yearns to wander the world, travelling to exotic places. To take the first step, she signs up for a Central American tour, only to discover it’s a tour for oldies (with matching leisure suits, etc.). Luckily she’s rescued from tour hell when she meets Rowan and Starling, an adventurous brother and sister, who promise more interesting travels off the beaten track. A novel about backpacking and finding yourself in the rainforests of Belize.
First sentence: As soon as I see the blond girl bouncing down the aisle, I know she’s heading for the empty seat beside me.
Fever, Lauren DeStefano (341 pages) – book two in the Chemical Garden trilogy. “In a future where genetic engineering has cured humanity of all diseases and defects but has also produced a virus that kills all females by age twenty and all males by the age twenty-five, teenaged Rhine escapes her forced marriage and journeys back to New York to find her twin brother.” (catalogue description) It sounds like a grim future indeed!
First sentence: We run, with water in our shoes and the smell of the ocean clinging to our skin.
Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy, Bil Wright (219 pages) – for a less alarming change of pace! Carlos Duarte has a flair for makeup, and it’s his dream to become a celebrity makeup artist. When he gets a part time job at Macy’s it seems like his career is on the right trajectory, but the makeup world is a cutthroat world: can he make it to the top?
First sentence: When I was twelve, I convinced my mother to let me do her makeup for Parents’ Night.
After the Snow, S D Crockett (288 pages) – another dystopian world, this time it’s a cold one! Willo’s life is as settled as it can be, with his family living in the wilderness, and him a successful hunter. When one day he comes back from a hunting trip to find his family gone, Willo packs up and heads for the mountains, planning on finding a way of getting them back. Things become (more) complicated, however, when he finds a staring girl and boy.
First sentence: I’m gonna sit here in my place on the hill behind the house.
Boy 21, Matthew Quick (250 pages) – Basketball is the winner in this book about life in a really tough neighbourhood. Finley has jersey number 21, and basketball is the one really good thing in his hard life. Russ has just moved into town following a tragedy, and refuses to play basketball, although he is known only as Boy21, after his former jersey number. “A moving novel about hope, recovery, and redemption” (cover).
First sentence: Sometimes I pretend that shooting hoops in my backyard is my earliest memory.
Drowning Instinct, Lisa J Bick (346 pages) – a serious one here, again. Jenna is sixteen, and troubled. Her family life is a shocker, then her older brother – who she looks up to – leaves for Iraq. She finds support in a relationship with an older man – a teacher, in fact. Which could make everything so much worse.
First sentence(s): “Look,” says the detective. He stares down at the girl huddled on the gurney.
The Poisoned House, Michael Ford (319 pages) – goodie! We do love ghost stories. This one looks rather spooky, too. Abi is a scullery maid in 19th century London. There’s something “otherwordly” in the house where she works, though, and Abi – I think – may find herself uncovering its deadly secret.
First sentence: The stone steps to the basement were ice cold under my bare feet.
Desert Angel, Charlie Price (233 pages) – Angel lives in a trailer in the California desert with her mother and her mother’s loser boyfriend, Scotty. One morning she wakes to discover her mother murdered and the boyfriend vanished. Fearing for her life – the boyfriend has excellent tracking skills – Angel escapes into the unforgiving desert, where she discovers a community of people who will help her. But Scotty is always just a few steps behind. Golly.
First sentence: The fight started after midnight, Scotty drunk, Angel’s mother shrill on crystal.
The Beginning of After, Jennifer Castle (425 pages) – Laurel’s family is killed in a horrific car accident, caused by her neighbour, who survived, but is in a coma. Laurel must adjust to life on her own, where it’s hard to tell if her relationships are built on pity or are genuine, and where she has a problematic attraction with the son of her neighbour.
First sentence: Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: it’s all about Before and After.
Dead to You, Lisa McMann (243 pages) – from the author of the Wake trilogy. Ethan was abducted when he was seven. Now, nine years later, he has been returned to his family. This should be fantastic! But, inevitably, there’s friction in the family, and some terrible things that Ethan can’t remember.
First sentence(s): There are three of them. No, four.
Grave Mercy, Robin LaFevers (549 pages) – the girl on the cover is wearing a killer red dress and carrying a crossbow. She’s Ismae, and she’s sought refuge in the convent of St Mortain, only to discover that the god of Death has blessed her with certain gifts. She is to be the handmaiden of Death, an assassin. Her first assignment finds her in the court of Brittany. Her target is Gavriel Duval. Seems simple enough, except she’s not prepared for the intrigues at court, or the intrigues of Gavriel Duval.
First sentence: I bear a deep red stain that runs from my left shoulder down to my right hip, a trail left by the herbwitch’s poison that my mother used to try to expel me from her womb.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Emily M Danforth (470 pages) – Cameron Post’s parents die in a car crash (another car crash!), right around the time that Cam is discovering that she is attracted to girls. Moving to Miles City, Montana, to live with her conservative aunt and grandmother, means she will have to appear to tow the line. When Cam meets Coley and they hit it off and begin a close friendship, Cam’s aunt decides to try and “fix” Cam, but can you deny who you really are?
First sentence: The afternoon my parents died I was out shop-lifting with Irene Klauson.
This week: historical romance, science fiction, and epic fantasy.
Changeling, Philippa Gregory. “Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days. Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape. Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.” (amazon.com)
This is the first of a series by one of the queens of historical fiction!
Burnt Ice, Steve Wheeler (New Zealand). The first book in the A Fury of Aces series. A space adventure! “In our future worlds the Administration rules the Sphere of Humankind, the Games Board sanctions and funds wars and conflicts, and the Haulers′ Collective roams the space routes like the caravanners of old. Marko and his crew of fellow soldier-engineers are sent to investigate an unknown planet. When they encounter strange artefacts and an intelligent but aggressive squid species, they are forced to embark on a perilous journey far from the Sphere. They will have to survive not only other alien encounters but also their own Administration′s deadly manipulations. Political factions and galactic media moguls vie for power … and money.” (Text from HarperCollins)
Do you like a really good sad story? We do. Here’s some.