Hello blog readers! My name’s Nicola, and you may have seen some of my posts on this blog before, mostly looking at graphic novels. Now I’m writing about books as well. Here are my picks for the best new books this week.

Book Cover courtesy of SyndeticsA trick of the light, Lois Metzger (189 pages) -Mike Welles had everything under control. But that was before. Now things are rough at home, and they’re getting confusing at school. He’s losing his sense of direction, and he feels like he’s a mess.

Then there’s a voice in his head. A friend, who’s trying to help him get control again. More than that—the voice can guide him to become faster and stronger than he was before, to rid his life of everything that’s holding him back. To figure out who he is again. If only Mike will listen.

First lines: “The first time I reach Mike Welles, he’s in a tunnel. It’s syrupy hot, July hot, the kind of heat where your breath going out feels like your breath going in, or so I imagine. I’ve been trying to talk to Mike but he can’t hear me or can’t listen- the distinction isn’t important.”

Cover courtesy of SyndeticsFallout, Todd Strasser (258 pages) – In the summer of 1962, the possibility of nuclear war is all anyone talks about. But Scott’s dad is the only one in the neighborhood who actually prepares for the worst. As the neighbors scoff, he builds a bomb shelter to hold his family and stocks it with just enough supplies to keep the four of them alive for two critical weeks. In the middle of the night in late October, when the unthinkable happens, those same neighbors force their way into the shelter before Scott’s dad can shut the door. With not enough room, not enough food, and not enough air, life inside the shelter is filthy, physically draining, and emotionally fraught. But even worse is the question of what will — and won’t — remain when the door is opened again.

First lines: I wake to a hand on my shoulder. Dad’s voice is urgent. “Get up, Scott!” The light in a the bedroom is on, nd I squint up into his face. Dad’s eyes are wide, and he’s shaking me hard, not gently, the way he usually does when he wants to wake me. “Up, now!”

Book cover courtesy of Syndetics
Julius and the Watchmaker, Tim Hehir (349 pages) -When Julius Higgins isn’t running from Crimper McCready and his gang of bullies he’s working in his grandfather’s bookshop in Ironmonger Lane. Until Jack Springheel, a mysterious clock collector, turns up looking for the fabled diary of John Harrison—the greatest watchmaker of all time.
Before he knows it, Julius becomes a thief and a runaway and makes a deal with Springheel that he will live to regret. And all before he finds out that Harrison’s diary is really an instruction manual for making a time machine.

First Lines: Give me seven extra long seconds. That’s all I ask, though Julius Higins as he sprinted around the corner into Ironmonger Lane. Crimper McCready and his two henchboys were close and gaining.

Book Cover courtesy of Syndetics
The eyes of minds , James Dashner (308 pages) – Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?
But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.
The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

First Lines: Michael spoke against the wind, to a girl named Tanya.
“I know it’s water down there, but it might as well be concrete. You’ll be flat as a pancake the second you hit.” Not the most comforting of works when talking to someone who wanted to end her life, but it was certainly the truth.

Book cover courtesy of Syndetics
Death, Dickinson and the demented life of Frenchie Garcia, Jenny Torres Sanchez (268 pages) – Frenchie Garcia can’t come to grips with the death of Andy Cooper. Her friends didn’t know she had a crush him. And they don’t know she was the last person with him before he committed suicide. But Frenchie’s biggest concern is how she blindly helped him die that night. Frenchie’s already insane obsession with death and Emily Dickinson won’t help her understand the role she played during Andy’s “one night of adventure.” But when she meets Colin, she may have found the perfect opportunity to recreate that night.

First lines: The man across the street is dead. I don’t know who figured it out or how, but I think he’s been dead for days when they found him. School has been out for three weeks. I estimate that would have been the last time I saw him. Alive.

Book cover courtesy of Syndetics
Charm and Strange, Stephanie Kuehn (213 pages) Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself. He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost. He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.
Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present. Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.

First lines: I don’t feel the prescence of God here. I pay along the far side of the river, my ears filled with the hum of cidcadas and the war of water flowing over the milldam. Vermont is postcard perfect. I could stand on my toes and peer over the current and the cattails and see the whole town spread before me.”

Book Cover courtesy of Syndetics
Homeland, Cory Doctrow (414 pages)-In Cory Doctorow’s wildly successful Little Brother, young Marcus Yallow was arbitrarily detained and brutalized by the government in the wake of a terrorist attack on San Francisco—an experience that led him to become a leader of the whole movement of technologically clued-in teenagers, fighting back against the tyrannical security state.
A few years later, California’s economy collapses, but Marcus’s hacktivist past lands him a job as webmaster for a crusading politician who promises reform. Soon his onetime girlfriend Masha emerges from the political underground to gift him with a thumbdrive containing a Wikileaks-style cable-dump of hard evidence of corporate and governmental perfidy. It’s incendiary stuff—and if Masha goes missing, Marcus is supposed to release it to the world. Then Marcus sees Masha being kidnapped by the same government agents who detained and tortured Marcus years earlier.
Marcus can leak the archive Masha gave him—but he can’t admit to being the leaker, because that will cost his employer the election. He’s surrounded by friends who remember what he did a few years ago and regard him as a hacker hero. He can’t even attend a demonstration without being dragged onstage and handed a mike. He’s not at all sure that just dumping the archive onto the Internet, before he’s gone through its millions of words, is the right thing to do.
Meanwhile, people are beginning to shadow him, people who look like they’re used to inflicting pain until they get the answers they want.

First lines: Attending Burning Man made me simulteanously one of the most photographed on the planet and the one of the least surveilled humans in the modern world.

Book cover courtesy of Syndetics
Transparent, Natalie Whipple (350 pages) Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.
An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults. After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily. Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.

First lines: I nearly died the second I was born. The doctor dropped me, but it wasn’t his fault. When I smacked the floor and let out a screeching cry, all anyone could see was the semi-transparent umbilical cord. The poor guy scooped me up, grasping in shock at my invisble body.

Book cover courtesy of Syndetics

The Rig – Joe Ducie (358 pages) Fifteen-year-old Will Drake has made a career of breaking out from high-security prisons. His talents have landed him at The Rig, a specialist juvenile holding facility in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. No one can escape from The Rig. No one except for Drake…
After making some escape plans and meeting the first real friends of his life, Drake quickly realises that all is not as it seems on The Rig. The Warden is obsessed with the mysterious Crystal-X – a blue, glowing substance that appears to give superpowers to the teens exposed to it. Drake, Tristan and Irene are banking on a bid for freedom – but can they survive long enough to make it?

First lines: The Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk flew low over the coean, low enough that a cool mist splashed William Drake in the face through the open bay doors. He could taste salt on his lips and feel the roaring wind rush past his ears. Handcuffed to a steel pivot-loop on the floor of the shopper, Drake glared out at the miles of endless ocean.

Bookcover courtesy of Syndetics
Antigoddess – Kendare Blake ( 333 pages) Old Gods never die…Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.
Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god. These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.
Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.
Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.
The Goddess War is about to begin.

First Lines: The feathers were starting to be a nuisance. There was one in her mouth, tickling the back of her throat. She chewed at is as she walked, grabbing it with her loars and pulling it loose. Warm, copper-penny blood flooded over her tongue. There were others, too, sprouting up inside her like a strange canceer, worming their way through her innards and muscle.

Book courtesy of Syndetics

Who done it? – “conducted” by Jon Scieszka (352 pages) A star-studded anthology with a devilish hook, whose proceeds benefit 826nyc: the fabulous literacy non-profit founded by Dave Eggers.

Can you imagine the most cantankerous book editor alive? Part Voldemort, part Cruella de Vil (if she were a dude), and worse in appearance and odor than a gluttonous farm pig? A man who makes no secret of his love of cheese or his disdain of unworthy authors? That man is Herman Mildew.
The anthology opens with an invitation to a party, care of this insufferable monster, where more than 80 of the most talented, bestselling and recognizable names in YA and children’s fiction learn that they are suspects in his murder. All must provide alibis in brief first-person entries. The problem is that all of them are liars, all of them are fabulists, and all have something to hide…

First lines: Dearest friend, you are invited to a gathering! Where: The Old Abandoned Pickle Factory. When: 8pm sharp. Why: Because if you don’t attned, I will have to telll the world everything I know about you. (Yes: everything. ) Your boss/superior/editor Herman Q. Mildew.