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.