We’ve all heard of Twilight. But perhaps it’s time to try something different…
Afterlife with Archie, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla
I know what you’re thinking. Archie, wholesome hero of almost 77 years of comics set in the all-American town of Riverdale, fighting against the Undead? It’s a strange concept, but a concept that works. The art’s not the usually cartoony Archie style, which is also good. I don’t want to give the plot away, but it’s well worth a look.
Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, Andi Watson
This is a rather wacky take on your bog-standard supernatural romance. Princess Decomposia spends most of her life running the kingdom while her hypochondriac father lies in bed. On her to do list is to hire a new cook. Luckily, Count Spatula appears. He’s a charming chap with a knack for baking impressive meals. It’s hardly the most terrifying story of love between the undead, but Halloween is equally parts “treat” to “trick.”** A nice break from all the chewing on brains.
The forest of hands and teeth, Carrie Ryan
What happens ten years after the zombie apocalypse? Twenty? This book is set in an undefined period of time after the zombies – here called “Unconsecrated” – have apparently taken over the world. It’s a wonderful blend of horror and dystopia and a really great look at how humanity copes with the undead after the initial attack. It’s also an interesting coming of age story about a young woman struggling with the traditions she’s grown up with and the promise of a world outside all that she’s ever known.
The abused werewolf rescue group, Catherine Jinks
Tobias Richard Vandevelde begins his lycanthropic journey not howling under the moon on a deserted moor but naked in a dingo pen. After that rather inglorious start thing escalate, and the titular group comes into play. I’ve been a fan of Catherine Jinks for a long time, so I was pretty excited to find out she’d written something in my favourite genre. Fair warning, though: you won’t find handsome men with rippling abs brooding under the full moon in this book. Refreshing, really.
**It took me a long time to think of this sentence and I refuse to apologise for it.
This year’s been a great year for graphic novels and horror, among other things. Here are my top ten picks for the best reads of 2015.
1) The singing bones, Shaun Tan
2) Baba Yaga’s assistant, Emily Carroll
3) Nimona, Noelle Stevenson
4) Part-time Princesses, Monica Gallagher
5) Gotham by midnight, Ray Fawkes and Ben Templesmith
6) Frozen Charlotte, Alex Bell
7) Calvin, Martine Leavitt
8) When Mr. Dog bites, Brian Conaghan
9) Our endless numbered days, Claire Fuller
10) Silver in the blood, Jessica Day George
What waits in the woods, Kieran Scott
It’s a beautiful, sunny day. Callie Velasquez holds hands with her boyfriend Jeremy as they follow Callie’s new BFFs Penelope and Lissa up the trail. The four friends are embarking on a camping trip — a trip that immediately goes awry. They lose their way on the trail, and encounter a charismatic stranger with questionable motives. And when Callie stumbles upon a dead body, it becomes clear that the danger that lies in the woods is deadlier than she could have ever imagined. Tensions mount and friendships are tested as these teenagers try to survive the most sinister of circumstances. (Goodreads)
First lines: There’s no question things could have gone differently out there in those woods. One zipper more tightly zipped, one foot more carefully placed on a rotting wood plank and I might not be here today. I might be roaming free instead of sitting locked up in this hole, sucky my every meal through a straw, staring at a padded wall.
We all looked up, Tommy Wallach
Before the asteroid we let ourselves be defined by labels:The athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever. But then we all looked up and everything changed.
They said it would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to become something bigger than what we’d been, something that would last even after the end. Two months to really live. (Goodreads)
First lines: “It’s not the end of the world,” Stacy said.
Peter looked down. He ‘d been staring vacantly at the sky, replaying his brief conversation with Mr. McArthur in his head. He still wasn’t sure of what to make of it.
Black Dove, white raven, Elizabeth Wein
Emilia and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes-in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat. Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation? (Goodreads)
First lines: Sindu told me I should aim for the sun. I still have a plane. There must be some way I can get Teo out safely. I think Momma’s hoard of Maria Theresa dollars is enough to pay for the travel. I am hoping my new passport is waiting for me in Addis Ababa. But Teo…Teo is trapped.
Along the river, Adeline Yen Mah
After a fall, CC is whisked away to a hospital. As she drifts in and out of consciousness, she is haunted by vivid dreams that seem strange—yet somehow familiar. Thus begins CC’s emotional journey back to a privileged life lived eight hundred years ago during the Song dynasty. CC is the daughter of a wealthy and influential man, but she finds herself drawn to a poor orphan boy with a startling ability to capture the beauty of the natural world. As the relationship between these two young people deepens, the transforming power of art and romantic love comes into conflict with the immovable rules of Chinese society. (Goodreads)
First lines: CC first noticed the woman in black when she stopped at the spice booth to buy salt and soya sauce. The market was packed with people. They crowded the narrow aisles between the stalls, jostling each other and bargaining for better value.
A Court of thorns and roses, Sarah J. Maas
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world. As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.
First lines: The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice. I’d been monitoring the parameters of the thicket for an hour, and my vantage point in the crook of a tree branch had turned useless. The gusting wind blew thick flurries to sweep away my tracks, but buried along with them any signs of potential quarry.
In a split second, Sophie McKenzie
Charlie’s life is torn apart by a terrorist bomb in a London market. Months later, she meets Nat, whose family was devastated by the same explosion. But as Charlie gets closer to Nat she uncovers secrets and a whole cast of shady characters that lead her to believe Nat knows more about the attack than he is letting on. (Goodreads)
First lines: I glanced at my phone. It was almost 3pm. Three pm was when the bomb would go off. I raced along the street, my heart banging against my ribs. I had to find Lucas. Canal Street market. That’s what the text had said. That was where Lucas would be.
Boys don’t knit, T.S. Easton (Librarian’s choice)
Ben Fletcher must get to grips with his more ‘feminine’ side following an unfortunate incident with a lollipop lady and a stolen bottle of Martini Rosso from Waitrose. All a big misunderstanding of course. To avoid the Young Offenders unit, Ben is ordered to give something back to the community and develop his sense of social alignment. Take up a hobby and keep on the straight and narrow. The hot teacher he likes runs a knitting group so Ben, reluctantly at first, gets ‘stuck in’. Not easy when your dad is a sports fan and thinks Jeremy Clarkson is God. To his surprise, Ben finds that he likes knitting and that he has a mean competitive streak. If he can just keep it all a secret from his mates…and notice that the girl of his dreams, girl-next-door Megan Hooper has a bit of a thing for him…(Goodreads)
First lines: Mum and Dad are at it again. They’re doing that thing where they make food-based double entendres all the time, thinking it goes over our heads. It goes over Molly’s head; she’s only six and she never listens to Mum or Dad anyway.
Saint Anything, Sarah Dessen
Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident? Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time. (Goodreads)
First Lines: “Would the defendant please rise.”
This wasn’t an actual question, even though it sounded like one. I’d noticed that the first time we’d all been assembled here, in this way. Instead, it was a command, an order. The “please” was just for show.
Read between the lines, Jo Knowles
Thanks to a bully in gym class, unpopular Nate suffers a broken finger—the middle one, splinted to flip off the world. It won’t be the last time a middle finger is raised on this day. Dreamer Claire envisions herself sitting in an artsy café, filling a journal, but fate has other plans. One cheerleader dates a closeted basketball star; another questions just how, as a “big girl,” she fits in. A group of boys scam drivers for beer money without remorse—or so it seems. Over the course of a single day, these voices and others speak loud and clear about the complex dance that is life in a small town. They resonate in a gritty and unflinching portrayal of a day like any other, with ordinary traumas, heartbreak, and revenge. But on any given day, the line where presentation and perception meet is a tenuous one, so hard to discern. Unless, of course, one looks a little closer—and reads between the lines. (Goodreads)
First lines: I step out of the mass of stinking bodies and get ready to catch the ball.
“Granger’s open!” someone yells.
Ben Mead has it. He pivots on one foot, trying to find an opening among the hands blocking his vision. He sees me and pauses doubtfully, then looks around for someone else. Anyone else.
Footer Davis is probably crazy, Susan Vaught (Librarian’s choice)
“Bless your heart” is a saying in the South that sounds nice but really isn’t. It means, “You’re beyond help.” That’s what folks say about fifth grader Footer Davis’s mom, who “ain’t right” because of her bipolar disorder. She just shot a snake in Footer’s yard with an elephant gun, and now she’s been shipped off to a mental hospital, and Footer is missing her fiercely yet again.
“Bless their hearts” is also what folks say about Cissy and Doc Abrams, two kids who went missing after a house fire. Footer wants to be a journalist and her friend Peavine wants to be a detective, so the two decide to help with the mystery of the missing kids. But when visiting the crime scene makes Footer begin to have “episodes” of her own, she wonders if maybe she’s getting sick like her mom, and that’s a mystery that she’s not at all sure she wants to solve. (Goodreads)
First lines: The day my mother exploded a copperhead snake with an elephant gun, I decided I was genetically destined to become a felon or a big-game hunter. That was good, since I had tried being a ballerina, poet, artist and musician, and I sucked at all of those.
Part-time Princesses, Monica Gallagher (Librarian’s Choice)
Working as costumed princesses at the local amusement park is a nice gig, but it’s not what Courtney, Amber, Tiffany, and Michelle want to do with their lives. These queens of high school have their own plans for life post-graduation, and they do not involve fixed games and fried pickles. But when all their plans fall apart, what are the girls to do? Left with no other options, they decide to keep their part-time jobs as princesses–for the moment. But even that plan is threatening to fall apart, thanks to the sudden and increasing muggings plaguing the park and chasing away customers. With their back-up jobs in peril, the girls have no choice but to take matters into their own hands and fight back. But the more they work to save the park, the more their part-time jobs become full-time, and the more their carefully-planned futures get pushed to the wayside. Will these princesses ever get their lives back on track?
Will they even want to? (Goodreads)
Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, Andi Watson (Librarian’s choice)
Princess Decomposia is overworked and underappreciated. This princess of the underworld has plenty of her own work to do but always seems to find herself doing her layabout father’s job, as well. The king doesn’t feel quite well, you see. Ever. So the princess is left scurrying through the halls, dodging her mummy, werewolf, and ghost subjects, always running behind and always buried under a ton of paperwork. Oh, and her father just fired the chef, so now she has to hire a new cook as well. Luckily for Princess Decomposia, she makes a good hire in Count Spatula, the vampire chef with a sweet tooth. He’s a charming go-getter of a blood-sucker, and pretty soon the two young ghouls become friends. And then…more than friends? Maybe eventually, but first Princess Decomposia has to sort out her life. And with Count Spatula at her side, you can be sure she’ll succeed. (Goodreads)
Far from you, Tess Sharpe
Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.
That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered. Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer – but can she track them down before they come for her? (Goodreads)
First lines: It doesn’t start here. You think it would: two terrified girls in the middle of nowhere, cowering together, eyes bulging at the gun in his hand. But it doesn’t start here. It starts the first time I almost die.
The sowing, Steven Dos Santos
Lucian “Lucky” Spark leads a double life. By day, he trains to become one of the Establishment elite. At night, he sabotages his oppressors from within, seeking to avenge the murder of his love, Digory Tycho, and rescue his imprisoned brother. But when he embarks on a risky plot to assassinate members of the Establishment hierarchy, Lucky is thrust into the war between the Establishment and the rebellion, where the lines between friend and foe are blurred beyond recognition. His only chance for survival lies in facing the secrets of the Sowing, a mystery rooted in the ashes of the apocalyptic past that threatens to destroy Lucky’s last hope for the future.(Goodreads)
First lines: I squint through my protective goggles against the maelstrom of swirling sand and blinding neon lights closing in on either side of me, trying to crush me in their rainbow vise. This is it. The Avenue of Longing. Home of the Pleasure Emporiums, the place where every appetite can be satisfied-for a steep price.
The vigilante poets of Selwyn Academy, Kate Hattemer
Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three friends decide to take down the reality TV show, For Art’s Sake, that is being filmed at their high school, the esteemed Selwyn Arts Academy, where each student is more talented than the next. While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art’s Sake. But then Luke—the creative force behind the poem and leader of the anti-show movement—becomes a contestant on the nefarious show. It’s up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school. Along the way, they’ll discover a web of secrets and corruption involving the principal, vice principal, and even their favorite teacher.(Goodreads)
First lines: Just call me Ethan. You’re reading this first, but I’m writing it last. I;m at a corner table in this low-rent Starbucks a few blocks from my house. I had planned to write this on the living room couch, but I have triplet sisters and they are four years old.
The winter horses, Philip Kerr
It will soon be another cold winter in the Ukraine. But it’s 1941, and things are different this year. Max, the devoted caretaker of an animal preserve, must learn to live with the Nazis who have overtaken this precious land. He must also learn to keep secrets-for there is a girl, Kalinka, who is hiding in the park. Kalinka has lost her home, her family, her belongings-everything but her life. Still, she has gained one small, precious gift: a relationship with the rare wild and wily Przewalski’s horses that wander the preserve. Aside from Max, these endangered animals are her only friends-until a Nazi campaign of extermination nearly wipes them out for good. Now Kalinka must set out on a treacherous journey across the frozen Ukrainian forest to save the only two surviving horses-and herself.(Goodreads)
First lines: Much of this old story has been gathered together like the many fragments of a broken vase. The pieces do not always fit as best they might, and indeed it’s quite possible that several of them do not belong here at all.
Mystic City, Theo Lawrence
Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City’s two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents’ sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud – and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths.
But Aria doesn’t remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can’t conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection – and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city – including herself.(Goodreads)
First lines: So little time is left.
“Take this.” He folds the locket into my hand. It throbs as if it has a pulse, giving off a faint white glow. “I’m sorry for putting you in danger.”
“I would do it all again,” I tell him. “A thousand times.”
The caller, Juliet Marillier
Neryn has made a long journey to perfect her skills as a Caller. She has learned the wisdom of water and of earth; she has journeyed to the remote isles of the west and the forbidding mountains of the north. Now, Neryn must travel in Alban’s freezing winter to seek the mysterious White Lady, Guardian of Air. For only when Neryn has been trained by all four Guardians will she be ready to play her role in toppling the tyrannical King Keldec. But the White Lady is not what she seems. Trapped with Whisper, her fey protector, Neryn is unable to send word to her beloved Flint, who is in danger of being exposed as a double agent. When a new threat looms and the rebellion is in jeopardy, Neryn must enter Keldec’s court, where one false move could see her culled. She must stand up against forces more powerful than any she has confronted before, and face losses that could break her heart.(Goodreads)
First lines: Done. He was done. No more lies; no more acts of blind savagery; no longer any need to pretend he was Keldec’s loyal retainer. His precarious double life as Enforcer and rebel spy was over. He had turned his back on it, and he was going home.
Predator’s Gold, Philip Reeve
Tom and Hester are in danger. Pursued by the grim aviators of the Green Storm, they stumble onto the ice city of Anchorage just in time. But Anchorage is not a safe refuge: devastated by plague and haunted by thieves or ghosts, the city is barely lurching along. And savage Huntsmen are closing in. Surrounded by danger, Tom and Hester struggle as jealousy threatens to destroy them and the city. In a desperate bid for survival, the young ruler of Anchorage sets a course for the Dead Continent: America. (Goodreads)
First lines: Freya woke early and lay for a while in the dark, feeling her city shiver and sway beneath her as its powerful engines sent it skimming across the ice. Sleepily, she waited for her servants to come and help her out of bed. It took her a few moments to remember that they were all dead.
Searching for Sky, Jillian Cantor
Sky and River have always lived on Island, the only world they’ve ever known. Until the day River spots a boat. Across Ocean, in a place called California, Sky is separated from River and forced to live with a grandmother she’s just met. Here the rules for survival are different. People rely on strange things like cars and cell phones. They keep secrets from one another. And without River, nothing makes sense. Sky yearns for her old life where she was strong and capable, not lost and confused. She must find River so they can return to Island, but the truth behind how they ended up there in the first place will come as the biggest shock of all. (Goodreads)
First lines: On the afternoon of my sixteenth birthday, River spears a fish. “Happy birthday,” he says, and he’s grinning as he holds the fish out in front of me. It is large, the length of River’s outstretched arms, and I’m both surprised and impressed by the size of his catch.
The slayer chronicles: Second chance, Heather Brewer
The summer after Joss failed to kill the vampire Vladimir Tod, he gets a second chance to prove himself as a Slayer. He is sent to New York City to hunt down a serial killer that the Slayer Society believes is a vampire. It is up to Joss to lead his Slayer team, and through their detective work, they discover that there are actually four vampire brothers who are on the killing rampage. Joss must use all his skill to save the innocent people of New York City from the murderers. Joss’s status as a Slayer depends on it. (Goodreads)
First lines: Kilian whipped around the corner of the building, his long hair flowing behind him, his coat billowing in the wind. His heart beat steadily in an unhurried pace. His breaths came even and smooth. But Kilian was terrified and didn’t know where to go, or who could possibly help him.
The year of the rat, Clare Furniss (305 pages)
The world can tip at any moment…a fact that fifteen-year-old Pearl is all too aware of when her mom dies after giving birth to her baby sister, Rose. Rose, who looks exactly like a baby rat, all pink, wrinkled, and writhing. This little Rat has destroyed everything, even ruined the wonderful relationship that Pearl had with her stepfather, the Rat’s biological father.Mom, though…Mom’s dead but she can’t seem to leave. She keeps visiting Pearl. Smoking, cursing, guiding. Told across the year following her mother’s death, Pearl’s story is full of bittersweet humor and heartbreaking honesty about how you deal with grief that cuts you to the bone, as she tries not only to come to terms with losing her mother, but also the fact that her sister—The Rat—is a constant reminder of why her mom is no longer around. (Goodreads)
First lines: The traffic light glows red through the rainy windscreen, blurred, clear, blurred again, as the wipers swish to and fro. Below it, in front of us, is the hearse. I try not to look at it.
Torn away, Jennifer Brown (276 pages) Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives — but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she’s sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents. In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she’s never considered before — one in which her mother wasn’t perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that’s something no tornado can touch. (Goodreads)
First lines: Marin wanted to teach me the East Coast Swing. It was pretty much her only goal in life. She was constantly pulling on my arms or standing in front of the TV, her hands on her square little hips, sparkle nail polish glinting and ratty rose-colored tutu quivering.
After the end, Amy Plum (322 pages)World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They’ve survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there. At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.
When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie. Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she’s trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past. (Goodreads)
First lines: I crouch low to the ground, pressing my back to the ancient spruce tree, and raise my crossbow in one hand. Keeping my eye on the precious shard of mirror embedded in my weapon, I inch it out from behind the tree. In the reflection, I spot something moving behind a cedar across the snowy clearing.
Take me on, Katie McGarry (455 pages)Champion kickboxer Haley swore she’d never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can’t stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she’d stay away from. Yet he won’t last five seconds in the ring without her help. West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it’s his fault his family is falling apart. He can’t change the past, but maybe he can change Haley’s future. Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they’ll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for. (Goodreads)
First lines: A door squeaks open at the far end of the barren hallway and the clicking of high heels echoes off the row of mteal post-office boxes. I attempt to appear causual as I flip through the mail. All of it leftovers from our previous life: my brother’s mixed martial arts magazine, an American Girl doll catalog for my sister, another seed and gardening catalog for my mother. Collection notices for my father.
Dangerous creatures, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (327 pages)Ridley Duchannes will be the first to tell you that she’s a bad girl. She’s Dark. She’s a Siren. You can never trust her, or even yourself when she’s around. Lucky for her, Wesley “Link” Lincoln can never seem to remember that; quarter Incubus or not, his heart is Mortal when it comes to Ridley. When Link heads to New York City to start a music career, Ridley goes along for the ride-and she has her own reasons. As if leaving small-town Gatlin for the big city, trying to form a band, and surviving life with a partially reformed Siren isn’t hard enough already, Link soon learns he has a price on his head that no Caster or Mortal can ever pay. (Goodreads)
First lines: There are only two kinds of Mortals in the backwater town of Gatlin, South Carolina-the stupid and the stuck. At least, that’s what they sat. As if there are any kinds of Mortals anywhere else. Please. Luckily, there’s only one kind of Siren no matter where you go in this world or the Otherworld.
Moon at Nine, Deborah Ellis (214 pages)Fifteen-year-old Farrin has many secrets. Although she goes to a school for gifted girls in Tehran, as the daughter of an aristocratic mother and wealthy father, Farrin must keep a low profile. It is 1988; ever since the Shah was overthrown, the deeply conservative and religious government controls every facet of life in Iran. If the Revolutionary Guard finds out about her mother’s Bring Back the Shah activities, her family could be thrown in jail, or worse.
The day she meets Sadira, Farrin’s life changes forever. Sadira is funny, wise, and outgoing; the two girls become inseparable. But as their friendship deepens into romance, the relationship takes a dangerous turn. It is against the law to be gay in Iran; the punishment is death. Despite their efforts to keep their love secret, the girls are discovered and arrested. Separated from Sadira, Farrin can only pray as she awaits execution. Will her family find a way to save them both? (Goodreads)
First lines: Ancient demons roam an ancient land. They dwell in the valleys of lurk in the mountains. They hide among the grains of sand and sleep beside the scorpions. They watch the humans go on about their insignificant business 0 shopping in the markets, heeding the call to prayer, taking care of their children. The humans are busy. The demons go unnoticed.
The other side of nowhere, Steve Johnson (209 pages)When Johnno and his friends survive the freak storm that rips apart their yacht, they’re just glad to be alive. That is, until reality hits: they’ve washed up on an uninhabited island with few supplies, no phone and no way to get home. The situation becomes even more desperate when the four teenagers discover they are not alone on the island. There’s a hideout where men with guns are covering up a dark secret that they will protect at any cost. With nowhere to run, Johnno and his friends are forced into a dangerous game with the criminals as they fight to save one of their own. (Goodreads)
First lines: “Matty?” I puffed. “You still alive back there?” I could see him out of the corner of my eye, his head down and tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth. “Course I am,” he wheezed back, “Doing better than you.”
The Minnow, Diana Sweeny (263 pages)Tom survived a devastating flood that claimed the lives of her sister and parents. Now she lives with Bill in his old shed by the lake. But it’s time to move out—Tom is pregnant with Bill’s baby. Jonah lets her move in with him. Mrs Peck gives her the Fishmaster Super Series tackle box. Nana is full of gentle good advice and useful sayings. And in her longing for what is lost, Tom talks to fish: Oscar the carp in the pet shop, little Sarah catfish who might be her sister, an unhelpful turtle in a tank at the maternity ward. And the minnow. (Goodreads)
First lines: “I think Bill is in love with Mrs. Peck,” I confide to an undersized blue swimmer crab that has become all tangled up in my line. The little crab doesn’t appear to be the slightest bit interested, so I finish pulling it free and toss it over the side of Bill’s dinghy.
Zero Hour, Will Hill (700 pages)When Jamie Carpenter’s mother is kidnapped by strange creatures, he finds himself dragged into Department 19, the government’s most secret agency.
Fortunately for Jamie, Department 19 can provide the tools he needs to find his mother, and to kill the vampires who want him dead. But unfortunately for everyone, something much older is stirring, something even Department 19 can’t stand up against…(Goodreads)
First lines: Eight black-clad Operators made their way silently over the lip of the canyon, spacing themselves evenly out along the length of the ridge. They bristled with weaponry, although not the kind they were used to carrying; they wore no stakes on their belts, no ultraviolet grenades or beam guns, no T-Bones.
Shadows, Paula Weston (387 pages)It’s almost a year since Gaby Winters was in the car crash that killed her twin brother, Jude. Her body has healed in the sunshine of Pandanus Beach, but her grief is raw and constant. It doesn’t help that every night in her dreams she kills demons and other hell-spawn.
And then Rafa comes to town. Not only does he look exactly like the guy who’s been appearing in Gaby’s dreams—he claims a history with her brother that makes no sense. Gaby is forced to accept that what she thought she knew about herself and her life is only a shadow of the truth—and that the truth is more likely to be found in the shadows of her nightmares. Who is Rafa? Who are the Rephaim? And most importantly, who can she trust?(Goodreads)
First lines: I’m running along the boardwalk, wind and sand stinging my arms. It’s after work and I have the track to myself. A handful of surfers are battling the choppy waves, and the Williamsons are walking on the beach like they do every morning in their matching sports gear and orthopedic shoes. Their silver heads are bowed against the wind, but they’re still holding hands. It makes me feel emptier than usual.
My brother’s keeper, Tom and Tony Bradman (106 pages) Alfie signs up for the army aged just 15, carried away by patriotic fervour at the start of the Great War. But life in the trenches is very far from his dreams of glory. It’s hard, and cold, and it’s boring. Alfie is desperate to see some action. But when he volunteers for a raid on the German trenches, against the advice of his comrades, Alfie begins to understand what war means, and to see the value of the lives that are being thrown away on the Western Front every day…(Goodreads)
First lines: Alfie Barnes peered into the darkness shrouding no-man’s land and wished he were taller. Like the rest of the men in his section he was in position on the trench’s fire-step, but he could only just get his head up to the level of the sandbagged parapet.
A bit of this, bit of that:
The Gladiator series by Simon Scarrow. The series is (so far): Fight for Freedom, Street Fighter, and Son of Spartacus. They tell the story of Marcus Cornelius Primus, a young gladiator determined to find justice for the crimes against his family. Julius Caesar makes an appearance also. Have to say, Roman names are awesome.
The Prey, Andrew Fukuda (February/March) – “For Gene and the remaining humans – or hepers – death is just a heartbeat away. On the run and hunted by society, they must find a way to survive in The Vast… and avoid the hungry predators tracking them in the dark. But they’re not the only things following Gene. He’s haunted by the girl he left behind and his burgeoning feelings for Sissy, the human girl at his side. When they discover a refuge of exiled humans living high in the mountains, Gene and his friends think they’re finally safe. Led by a group of intensely secretive elders, the civilisation begins to raise more questions than answers. A strict code of behaviour is the rule, harsh punishments are meted out, young men are nowhere to be found – and Gene begins to wonder if the world they’ve entered is just as evil as the one they left behind. As life at the refuge grows more perilous, he and Sissy only grow closer. In an increasingly violent world, all they have is each other… if they can only stay alive.” (goodreads.com)
The Eternity Cure, Julie Kagawa (April) – sequel to The Immortal Rules. “Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning – New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally. Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.” (goodreads.com)
Bound, by Erica O’Rourke (353 pages) – This is the third book in the Torn series. Wow have you ever thought that there are so many series in teen fiction? This one is about mortals and magic, and Mo Fitzgerald, who has to choose between the two worlds or else lose everything and everyone.
First lines: ‘The problem with terrible ideas is that the people who have them don’t recognize how truly awful they are until it’s too late. After all, nobody deliberately chooses the worst possible course of action.‘
Stormdancer : The Lotus War book one, by Jay Kristoff (324 pages) – Well here it is! Feudal Japanese steampunk. Yukiko, the book’s heroine, and her flightless griffin pal must take on the Shogun and his empire. There are also chainsaw swords in this book, a little blurb tells me.
First line: ‘As the iron war club scythed toward her head, Yukiko could help wishing she’d listened to her father. She rolled aside as her cover was smashed to kindling, azalea petals drifting over the oni’s shoulders like perfumed snowflakes.‘
Bitter Blood : The Morganville Vampires book 13, by Rachel Caine (538 pages) – For ages vampires and humans have co-existed in Morganville, getting up to at least twelve books-worth of adventure and intrigue. Now that the draug – the creatures that kept the vampires in check – have been defeated, the vampires are becoming a little excessive, and the humans want to fight back! Also a reality television show threatens to reveal all to the world.
First lines: ‘Morganville, Texas, isn’t like other towns. Oh, it’s small, dusty, and ordinary, in most ways, but the thing is, there are these – well, let’s not be shy about it. Vampires.’
Break My Heart 1,000 Times, by Daniel Waters (342 pages) – After the Event, everyone could see ghosts. Creepy! Man. Veronica sees the ghost of a teenaged boy in her mirror each morning, but isn’t too worried. However, the ghosts seem to becoming more powerful, and Veronica and chum Kirk uncover a creepier plot of their teacher, whose dead daughter hasn’t come back; he’s now convinced that by killing a living host (i.e., Veronica) his kid might resurface.
First lines: ‘I walk through walls. I whisper at the window when I watch her leave our home. I flicker at the edges of my own memory.‘
Rivals and Retribution : A 13 to Life Novel, by Shannon Delany (308 pages) – This is the conclusion (and book number five) to the 13 to Life series, about two werewolf families battling it out for the town of Junction. It receives what they call ‘mixed reviews’ on Goodreads, now accessible directly through the library catalogue! Handy
First line: ‘The girl enters the barn, slipping between hay bales and a stack of buckets.‘
Butter, by Erin Jade Lange (296 pages) – Sixteen-year-old Butter is morbidly obese, and feels alone. So he gets a website – butterslastmeal.com – and decides that he will broadcast his own death by over-eating. As he carries out his (somewhat macabre) plan he discovers that the attention he receiving, though not exactly positive, feels like popularity, and as the deadline approaches, does he still want to go through with it? Very tense with an amazing character is what I distill from the reviews I just read.
First lines: ‘Most people would say the website is where this wild ride began. But for me is started two days earlier, on a Tuesday night in front of the TV in my living room.‘
Passenger, by Andrew Smith (465 pages) – This is a sequel to The Marbury Lens, about a pair of boys who run away to London and find a lens that transports them to an war-stricken alternate reality. Now they try to destroy the lens, but there is an evil that won’t let them run away so easily, especially when it has their friends. Full of coolness.
First lines: ‘This is it. Of course it wasn’t over. Things like this never end. It has been two and a half months since Freddie Horvath kidnapped some dumb kid who was too drunk to find his way home.‘
Unwholly, by Neal Shusterman (402 pages) – Book one of the Unwind trilogy. Here is book one! Teens can be harvested – ‘unwound’ – for body parts, which is of course not ideal, but it is the future and it is dystopian. Thrilling, affecting, and really good, I reckon, after skimming through Goodreads.
First line: ‘He’s fighting a nightmare when they come for him. A great flood is swallowing the world, and in the middle of the it all, he’s being mauled by a bear.‘
For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund (407 pages) – This is a sci-fi post-apocalyptic romance strongly inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion. FINALLY. Elliot North reunites with Kai, the boy she loved but refused to elope with, when she’s forced to rent land from the mysterious Cloud Feet group to which he now belongs. He’s got secrets! He’s also kind of unpleasant, but it’s justified (because of the secrets).
First lines: ‘Elliot North raced across the pasture, leaving a scar of green in the silver, dew-encrusted grass. Jeff followed, tripping a bit as his feet slid inside his too-big shoes.‘
Ashen Winter, by Mike Mullin (576 pages) – This is set in the US, six months after the Yellowstone Supervolcano erupted, as depicted in the first book, Ashfall. (You know that part in that film 2012 when Yellowstone explodes? Well there actually is a supervolcano there! There is one under Taupo and 26,000 years ago it plunged the earth into a volcanic winter and invented pumice.) So in this book, Yellowstone has gone up and the country is pretty post-apocalyptic; protaganist Alex must return to Iowa to find his parents.
First line: ‘Ten months had passed since I’d last seen the sun. The rich blue of that final August sky was fading from my memory.‘
Son, by Lois Lowry (393 pages) – The conclusion the series begun in The Giver. It is a utopian future! But, sadly, it comes with a heavy cost; a society where regimented eugenics dictates almost every aspect of interpersonal interactions. In this book, Claire, who’d been a Vessel, can not forget her son. She is desperate to get him back, and will stop at nothing to do so.
First lines: ‘The young girl cringed when the buckled the eyeless leather mask around the upper half of her face and blinded her. It felt grotesque and unnecessary, but she didn’t object. It was the procedure.‘
Vessel, by Sarah Beth Durst (424 pages) – Liyana’s reason to be is to become the vessel for her tribe’s goddess; she will dance and summon the goddess, who will then bring the rain that her people desperately need. However! It doesn’t work, and Liyana is exiled. She meets a boy reportedly possessed by the trickster god, Korbyn, who seeks Liyana’s help to find five other vessels; the gods are going missing, and they’re needed.
First lines: ‘On the day she was to die, Liyana walked out of her family’s tent to see the dawn. She buried her toes in the sand, cold from the night, and she wrapped her father’s goatskin cloak tight around her shoulders.‘
The Voyage of the Unquiet Ice, by Andrew McHagan (384 pages) – This is book two of the Ship Kings series. I haven’t read the first one, sorry! You should though. BECAUSE. In this volume, Dow Amber has at last a ship, but he does he – an outsider! – belong with the Ship Kings? Also he has to travel to the frozen north to save the empire from rebellion and treachery.
First line: ‘In the beginning – at least as Ship Kings scholars would tell the tale – there was only inhabitated land in all the world, and that was Great Island.‘
The Girl with Borrowed Wings, by Rinsai Rossetti (290 pages) – Frenenqer Paje feels trapped by the desert she lives in, and the rules set by her father. She meets a boy who happened to be a shapechanger – a ‘Free’ – who has no obligations and not attachments. He shows her the freedom she wants and is that a little romance? Why yes, the blurb seems to hint at it.
First line: ‘I am unlike most other people because I began, not in the body of my mother, but in the brain of my father.‘
Oblivion, by Anthony Horowitz (667 pages) – This is book five (and the last book!) in the Power of Five series. It has a lot of pages! Just over 666, which would sort of seem appropriate as it’s about earth getting (almost) destroyed by the powers of darkness. There’s an app you can download that makes the cover ‘come alive’ when you hold your cellular telephone in front of it. I am trying it! Well hey that’s pretty cool
First lines: ‘It was the week before my sixteenth birthday when the boy fell out of the door and eveything changed. Is that a good start? Miss Keyland, who taught me at the village school, used to say that you have to reach out and grab the reader with the first sentence.‘
The Paladin Prophecy, by Mark Frost (549 pages) – This is the first in a series. Will West has always been encouraged by his parents to NOT do his best but to stay in the middle of his class. When he mistakenly reveals that he’s some kind of genius he is recruited by a secret organisation with super technology, and he begins to notices that men in dark hats and cars are following him and his family everywhere. Also there is a centuries-old war between secret societies that he’s now a part of, alarmingly.
First line: ‘“The Importance of an Orderly Mind” – Will West began each day with that thought even before he opened his eyes. When he did open them, the same words greeted him on a banner across his bedroom wall: “#1: THE IMPORTANCE OF AN ORDERLY MIND.”‘
Deadwater Lane, by Stephen Barker (290 pages) – When Christopher (Christo) was younger he was in a car accident that killed an elderly man and left him with a slight brain injury that has reduced his memory. He also got blamed, and as part of his community service he must help a lonely old man. His best friend has betrayed him with his girlfriend and so Christo seeks revenge (inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo). The best revenge is classical, usually.
First lines: ‘When I think back carefully I can see now that Ferdy was smiling. The dash threw up an eerie blue light and I remember a cold twinkle in his eyes as the grin began to spread across his face; teeth picked out ultra-white amongst purple shadows.‘
The Crimson Crown : A Seven Realms Novel, by Cinda Williams Chima (598 pages) – This is the last book in the series. Which is just as well because 1. you can read them all now and be satisfied with a conclusion, and 2. we are literally running out of room on the shelves to accomodate them. They are big books! So, 3. imagine relaxing on a beach (or wherever) while on holiday reading them. Don’t get sand in them though.
First lines: ‘It was the largest gathering of the Spirit clans Raisa had ever seen. They came from all over the Fells – from Demonai Camp to the west, from Hunter’s Camp to the east, and from the rugged northern reaches and the river valleys near the West Wall.’
Dustlands : Rebel Heart, by Moira Young (424 pages) – This is book two in the Dustlands trilogy, and is, according to the cover, better than The Hunger Games. Truly a claim to test (by reading them all). Anyway, here’s the synopsis from Amazon: ‘Saba has rescued her kidnapped brother and defeated the fanatical Tonton. But the price to be paid for her violent victory is terible. Jack has disappeared – and can no longer be trusted. A new and formidable enemy is on the rise in the dustlands. No one is safe. And Saba must confront the terrible secret hidden in the darkest depths of her soul.’
First lines: ‘It’s late afternoon. Since morning, the trail’s been following a line of light towers. That is, the iron remains of what used to be light towers, way back in the Wrecker days, time out of mind.‘
Zom-B, by Darren Shan (217 pages) – B. Smith has a racist dad, nightmares about killer babies, and a lot of other things to deal with. He finds it easier to agree with his father, rather than argue, especially since his dad is abusive as well as a bigot. However, when there’s a zombie apocalypse, and B’s school is attacked, B must ally himself with anyone he can if he wants to survive. Serious real-world issues + addition of supernatural gore, and the first in a series (of three I think).
First line: ‘It was the darkest, most wretched hour of the night when the dead came back to life and spread like a plgue of monstrous locusts through the village of Pallaskenry.‘
Cuttlefish, by Dave Freer (299 pages) – This is alternative-history fiction! And I leave it to the catalogue to explain. ‘In an alternate 1976 dominated by coal power and the British Empire, Clara Calland and her mother, an important scientist, embark on a treacherous journey toward freedom in Westralia aboard a smugglers’ submarine, the Cuttlefish, pursued by Menshevik spies and Imperial soldiers.’
First lines: ‘It was after midnight, and London’s lights shimmered on the waters that had once been her streets. Something dark moved down there, in the murky depths.’
Poison Tree, by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (219 pages) – Might copy & paste this one as well, since its blurb is pretty oblique and difficult to summarise: ‘Alysia has quickly moved to a position of responsibility in SingleEarth, working among shapeshifters and witches who fight against vampires, but she is hiding secret alliances that could put her fellow mediators at risk.’
First lines: ‘There was blood on her hands, congealing slowly. The body in her arms was cold, its once-vibrant cheer forever vanished from the world.‘
Starstruck, by Lauren Conrad (293 pages) – The latest Fame Game novel, about a bunch of people in Hollywood who star in a reality show about a bunch of people in Hollywood, written by someone who was in a (slightly-scripted, apparently?) reality show about a bunch of people in Hollywood. So somewhat authentic. In this book Madison does time, Kate has a hit single, and Carmen is overshadowed by her mother.
First line: ‘Madison Parker stood in the echoing marble foyer of the Beverly Hills Courthouse, her back pressed against the wall and he purse clutched tightly in her freshly manicured fingers.‘
Shadows, by Ilsa J. Bick (518 pages) – Book two of the Ashes trilogy. An apocalyptic thriller full of horror and gore and a love triangle, according to (the somewhat mixed) reviews on Amazon.com. If that sounds like your cup of tea, read the first book, er, first.
First line: ‘FUBAR: that was Jed’s name for it. Once a Marine, always a Marine. He didn’t know what to call the kids. Some said zombies, but that wasn’t right.‘
Yesterday, by C. K. Kelly Martin (355 pages) – This is about sixteen-year-old Freya Kallas, who lives in a future (2063) where climate change has left the world a bit of a dystopic nightmare. It is also about a Freya Kallas who lives in Toronto in 1985 and whose memory is a bit fuzzy. If that makes sense? To explain further might spoil things! Noooo
First line: ‘When I’ve wailed for so long and so hard that my throat is in shreds and my fingernails ripped and fingertips bloody from clawing at the door, I collapse in front of it curled up like a dead cat I saw on an otherwise spotless sidewalk as a child once.‘
Black Spring, by Alison Croggan (286 pages) – This story is inpired by Wuthering Heights, which is, if you’ve not read it, a gothic classic. However, this has – judging from the cover’s synopsis – witchcraft thrown in to make it even more gothic. Gothicky? You know.
First line (I wanted to add the excellent second line but it’s too long): ‘After the last long winter, I needed to get as far away from the city as I possibly could.‘
Hard to imagine, but after next month there will be no more Twilight movie trailers ever. Until then, here’s a couple of little jigsaw pieces of clips of Breaking Dawn Part 2:
Breaking Dawn Part 2 opens in theatres in the middle of next month.
Stephanie’s been ordering up a storm: here’s a couple of new interesting titles you might like to reserve. Zombies and vampires, oh my! (More next Wednesday.)
Team Human, Justine Larbalastier and Sarah Rees Brennan. This is a spoof, obviously, but reviewers say it’s an affectionate spoof, from the authors of Liar, and The Demon’s Lexicon:
“Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn’t mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It’s up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity.
“On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.” (goodreads.com)
This Is Not a Test, Courtney Summers. Brace yourself: Courtney Summers, queen of gritty stories, does the zombie apocalypse (that is a blood spatter top left of the book cover):
“It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.
“To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.
“But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside.
“When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?” (goodreads.com)