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Extra books for older readers

Finally the extra reviews forthe 12-16's and above

Coakley, Lena. Worlds of Ink and Shadow. Amulet, 2016, pp352, £10.99. 978 1 4197 1034 6            Worlds of Ink

I must confess that my heart sank at the first line “Charlotte Bronte dipped her pen....” I have an aversion to books that seem to have been written for the sole purpose of linking with the National Curriculum, or of “teaching” the reader something worthy. However, once in full flow, the narrative swept me away. We join the Brontes as their imaginary world of Verdopolis takes a darker turn, and they realise that what began as a youthful adventure may cost more than they bargained for. The writing strikes a lovely balance between the frustrated romantic feelings of the characters and the simmering danger around them. I can honestly say that I found it difficult to put down.

The characters are detailed facsimiles of the real Brontes - thoroughly researched, and perhaps a little too exact. When the author decides to emphasise a point as being real, or true, it is like a splash of cold water in the reader's face. There really isn't any need to refer to a character by their full name throughout the book, and dropping hints about governesses and "wuthering" is like elbowing your reader in the ribs to make sure they get it. Another tiny niggle is the clanging use of "gotten". A little out of place, and a personal peeve.

Having said all of that this is a gripping, well researched, adventure that is satisfying and enjoyable. What more could anyone wish for?

Helen Thompson

Helfand, Lewisand Sharma, Lalit Kumar. Under the Shadow of the Swastika (World War Two)Campfire, 2016, pp148, £12.99. 978 93 81182 14 7

To young people today, the Second World War must seem not much more recent than ancient history, and of very little relevance to them, which is a difficult concept for post-war baby-boomers like me to grasp. But that is why this attempt to bring that horrific period into focus for youngsters today, in a format which they easily relate to, has to be applauded.

Through a basic chronological progress, this graphic ‘novel’ offers several angles on the conflict. The author is American, the illustrator Indian, and perhaps this is why there is no over-statement of the role of Britain in the war (and no over-emphasis on the American role either). The main themes that struck me most were an insistence on a tabloid view of the ‘evil’ Hitler, with little to explain the background to his rise, much on the treatment of the Jews, and a lot on various resistance movements. Inevitably much is either omitted or minimised, and I found the author’s preferred emphases interesting and at times educational.

The illustrations are in a typically gritty graphic novel style, with not too much blood and gore, and at times showing particularly difficult scenes quite sensitively. Particularly powerful are two full-page images at the end, of death and destruction, and of hope and freedom.

There are examples of cringe-worthy inaccuracies such as (on the raid on Coventry: ‘tens of thousands of buildings were obliterated’ and ‘an entire city was levelled’. And a map of Europe shows the Normandy landings taking place on the southern coast of Brittany! One always wonders how many more mistakes there are that one is not aware of.

That said, images of burning and bombing, of sheltering in the London Underground, and many more, will hit the mark with young people yet to appreciate that war is not a video game. This book will help to inform and educate, and should surely be on the shelves of every school library.   

Steve Hird

Hounam,Donald. Pariah. Corgi, 2016, pp394, £7.99. 978 0 552 57440 2     

PariahPariah is the sequel to Gifted. Once again the reader enters the complex and scary world inhabited by forensic teenage sorcerer Frank, as he attempts to overcome evil and solve seemingly intractable mysteries, while trying - and failing - to stay out of trouble.

Frank has lost his sorcerer’s license, and is supposed to be on a train to Rome, but feels compelled to return to Doughnut City, the devastated centre of Oxford, and home now to down-and-outs and criminals. There’s a corpse with strange magic symbols carved into its flesh in the mortuary, and there is something very odd about it. Meanwhile Detective Constable Magdalena Marvell, whose more than professional interest in Frank shows little sign of decreasing, is desperate for him to help her get to the bottom of the bizarre death of her younger brother. Things are complicated further by Kazia’s presence. Her powers as a sorcerer are dangerous and unpredictable, but Frank can’t rid himself of his attraction to her. Never far from his thoughts is the fact that in only a few years his magical powers will start to wain, and that by his mid-twenties they will have gone completely, leaving him with a bleak future. And if all this wasn’t enough, the Inquisition is on his trail.

Pariah is a long book with a labyrinthine plot. It will appeal strongly to readers with a penchant for mystery stories with a fantasy element. Frank is a convincingly fallible protagonist. The sorcery is satisfyingly intricate, and the setting of an alternative Oxford is intriguing.

Anne Harding

Kazerooni, Abias. The Boy With Two Lives. Allen & Unwin, 2015, pp264, £6.99. 978 1 74336689 9

This is the sequel to Abbas Kazerooni’s first memoir, On Two Feet and Wings, in which he recounted how his parents sent him, alone as a nine year old, via Istanbul to the UK in order to avoid conscription as a boy soldier in the Iranian army. In this new book, he arrives in Worcestershire and meets his irascible and violent cousin, Mehdi, who has been charged with putting him into a prep school. Over the next four years the young Abbas learns to speak English and become integrated into a totally different culture from the one into which he was born. He is a plucky and resourceful lad and quickly establishes himself as an excellent scholar, winning the hearts of teachers and peers alike. However, during his weekends and holidays he is at the mercy of the bullying Mehdi who abuses and exploits him cruelly. On top of this, Abbas’ mother dies in Iran, shattering his hopes of ever seeing her again. Eventually, he actually ends up homeless and sleeping rough while trying to continue his career at a top school – hence his ‘two lives’. It could be a depressing read but, instead, Abbas’ resilience and courage is moving and life-affirming. Young readers will be inspired by this real life tale of struggle and hope as Abbas refuses to be beaten by appalling odds.

Nigel Hinton

Leblanc, Maurice (Translated by David Carter)Arsene Lupin vs Sherlock Holmes. Alma Books, 2015, pp288, £6.99. 978 1 84749 561 7      Arsene  

Two classic stories for the price of one. Author Maurice Leblanc cleverly combines his creation, Arsene Lupin – a gentleman thief with that of Sherlock Holmes or we should say Herlock Sholmes (Conan Doyle objected to the use of Sherlock Holmes). These stories were written in the early 1900s and translated from the original French editions.

Of the detective genre, they really are classics of their time – they are, after all over 100 years old.

In the first story “The Blonde Lady”, Lupin undertakes a series of outrageous thefts and escapes with Herlock hot on his heels. Herlock needs to discover the identity of the Blonde Lady who always seems to be involved in the crimes in some way.

The second story “The Jewish Lamp” Herlock’s help is requested to help recover the Jewish Lamp. In the process he discovers that the lamp contains a precious jewel and an astonishing secret.

Whilst the language in these stories is fairly accessible and the adventures of Sherlock

Holmes will have a certain following due to recent TV and film exposure, I think students would have to be keen fans and willing to persevere to see the stories through to the end. It is worth doing so.

Janet Clarke

Lindstrom, Eric. Not If I See You First. HarperCollins, 2015, pp405, £12.99. 978 0 00 814630 6        

Parker was blinded as a child in an accident that killed her mother. As the novel opens she is dealing, perhaps unrealistically quickly, with her Dad’s death and the turmoil it has brought to her life.  Understandably, Parker is a closed character and fiercely protective of any independence she can grasp.  She has rules for how people are expected to deal with her and her blindness, and rule breaking can lead to instant cut off.  When her first love reappears though she is forced to accept that it's not only physically she's been blind. She’s been blind to her best friend's problems, blind to the pain she’s caused her extended family and blind in her refusal to listen rather than jump to conclusions. Blindness is well-handled throughout the book; the reality of losing one’s sight is realistic without being overly negative.  The publication of the book has also been well handed, with a simultaneous audio book and a Braille front cover.

Parker is a wonderfully strong character, who refuses to let her disability stop her living and rallies against those who’d wrap her in cotton wool.  Though this strength is occasionally her undoing, it makes for an intriguing read.  This is a surprisingly romantic book with depth that young teenage girls in particular may enjoy.

Amy McKay

Maas, Sarah. J. Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass)Bloomsbury, 2015, pp656, £7.99. 978 1408858615

The fourth book in the Throne of Glass series finds nineteen year old Aelin Galathynius, the rightful Queen of Terrasen and former assassin returning to the dangerous and evil city of Ritfthold before she can reclaim her throne. She is seeking revenge and is determined to find out if her closest friends and allies are safe. Aelin must confront her evil master Arobynn for the brutality she endured. And a still question remains -will magic ever be set free in the land again?

This is an epic fantasy with an action-driven plot and a huge host of well-rounded nuanced characters. Humans, fae, witches, wyverns and Valg warriors are amongst the large cast. Aelin is an appealing heroine – passionate, vain, idealistic and loyal. Maas is excellent at developing strong female characters who lead the action and support one another. They are equals in every way to the males and often surpass them in strength and cunning. Meanwhile romance and smouldering sexual tensions abound in every chapter. With 658 pages, the book is a real page-turner which fans will find it difficult to put down. The Throne of Glass series first evolved as online fantasy fiction when the author was just sixteen. It has won acclaim as a New York Times best seller and Queen of Shadows has already scooped the Good Reads Choice Awards 2015 for Young Adult Fantasy. The series will continue to inspire young authors to hone their writing skills online.

Rosemary Woodman

McCauley, Diana. Gone to Drift. Papillote Press, 2016, pp208, £7.99. 978 0 9931086 1 7  

Gone to DriftLloyd lives in a fishing village on the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica.  His grandfather is a fisherman and is lost at sea or “gone to drift”.  Everyone tells him his grandfather must be dead but Lloyd is frustrated that no-one is trying hard enough to find him and sets about doing so himself.

His search leads him in many directions, he meets a marine conservationist who reluctantly trires to help him.  He stows away on a coastguard ship that tkes him to the distant islands that his grandfather was headed towards.  There a man broken by his experience in a central American prison gives him a clue that takes him to illegal dolphin takers.

The story is told in two voices.  The first is the third person narrative that follows Lloyd.  The other is what we have to assume at first is his grandfather alone on a rock slowly dying of starvation and thirst.  And it is this voice that gives us the better story.

We trace the grandfather’s life from boyhood in a fishing village and how much the sea plays a role in his life.  How life for him and his family declines and the family disintegrate.  How illegal methods of fishing take hold on the island and eventually how he comes to be alone on the island.

In the Lloyd narrative the characters fail to develop and as the plot concludes we are left with at least one character that appears to have no motivation for their actions and they are pretty drastic actions.

Much is made in the notes of the author’s love of Jamaica and her commitment to marine conservation and truly the book is more about those than Lloyd.  It is still quite a gripping adventure and the grandfather’s narrative is moving in its language and slightly regretful telling.

Caroline Downie

Pearce, Bryony. Phoenix burning. Stripes, 2016, pp416, £6.99. 9781 84715 670 9

All good books should start with an excellent sentence, like this brilliant sequel to Phoenix Rising. A sentence that immediately drew me into the exciting world of pirates, polluted junk filled oceans and a dangerous sun worshipping religious cult.  Toby and Ayla both need a vital component, a solar inverter that will enable their solar panels to function and power their ships, but they don’t have any. However, the sun worshippers do, they collect any artefact that is connected to the sun and believe that these artefacts will protect the world from another cataclysm. The teenagers hatch a desperate plan to present themselves as Sun and Moon candidates for the cult’s Solstice Festival which will enable them to locate and steal a couple of inverters. This involves them in dangerous trials, pits them against other desperate teenage pairs and fanatical cult members. The climax is dramatic, exciting, and full of action and involves Toby’s mother who is revealed to be a Greyman. The plot is fast paced, the characters are well drawn and the characters, both familiar and new are credible and interesting. It develops the relationship between Ayla and Toby into one that parallels that of Romeo and Juliet with subtle twists. This book can be read alone, but I feel that the reader will enjoy it more if they read Phoenix Risingfirst. I loved it and was fascinated by the ideas of what our dystopian future could look like.

 Judith Palka

Salisbury, Melinda. The Sleeping Prince. Scholastic, 2016, pp367, £7.99. 978 1 407147 64 2

The sequel to TheSin Eater’s Daughter returns to thatdark fantasy world on the brink of war with the newly awoken Sleeping Prince rampaging cruelly across Tregellian with his army of Golems. The story has shifted from the first novel to now be told from the perspective of strong willed Errin living as an illegal herbalist in a village under threat of evacuation as the war edges nearer. Her mother is plagued by an affliction which has left her on the edge of madness. Errin is trying desperately to shield her from the eyes of authority for fear she will be taken away. Her only ally is the hooded Silas who buys her poisons and potions and enables her to survive. She has strong feelings for him but is he the mysterious man she confides in as she dreams? When Silas seems to desert her and her mother is taken, Errin journeys across a ravaged land to seek help from the secret Conclave community with finding and curing her mother. She believes that her brother Lief is dead until a shocking revelation shows her otherwise, one of many surprising twists and turns throughout this well-crafted story. Lief is not the only character from the first bookwho crosses over into this story as Errin befriends Twylla the original Sin Eater. Together they make a pact to defeat the Sleeping Prince and Errin now in their enemy’s hands must make the ultimate sacrifice to keep their hopes alive. An absorbing story driven by a compelling narrative which will leave readers eager for the final part of this trilogy.

Sue Polchow

Strahan, Clare. Cracked. Allen & Unwin, 2015, pp320, £6.99. 978 1 74336684 4     Cracked

This story, set in Australia is about a 15 year old girl called Clover. She had an unusual upbringing with a single mother in a household with no Facebook or television. Clover experiences the normal woes of being a teenager with the added angst of being very angry and frustrated with the world. She is going through a tough time, fighting with her friends, her mother and experiencing heartache.

But she loves creative writing and is very good at it, highlighting that although she may have worries and woes, there is an outlet for everyone and for Clover its writing. Aside from all that though, Clover is a lovable character who loves her mother dearly.

This book is suitable for young teenagers and I think Clover is a character to whom many young readers could relate. This is an enjoyable read brushing on some serious issues that no doubt affect many teenagers today.

Celine Campbell

 Information Books

Powling,Joni. Coal Sacks for Curtains. Matador, 2014, pp250, £8.99. 978 1783061983

Although narrated in novel form, this story is based on personal recollections and seems to be a fictionalised memoir. Set in World War Two, beginning in 1939, and ending shortly after the D-Day landings in 1944, it tells the story of Josie Brownley, a working-class girl from London’s docklands, who is twelve when the war begins.

Considered as a novel, the book has its limitations. Josie’s cockney accent is consistent, but most other characters’ speech is ‘standard English’, which as the story progresses has the effect of making Josie seem younger than she is. At times the focus of the narrative changes suddenly, without warning, and events go off at tangents, sometimes ill-advisedly.

But the book’s unquestionable strength lies not in the story but its documentary range and detail, which are thoroughly convincing. World War Two’s effect on English life - the blitz, evacuation, the women’s Land Army, compulsory war work in an aircraft factory, rationing, the arrival of American forces and their reception, above all the fragile sexual encounters of young people with uncertain futures - are lifted out of stereotypes and made very real. Josie’s sexual and emotional awakening as a teenager is sensitively handled, though teachers should note that the book deals with teenage pregnancy and includes a false accusation of rape. For teenagers studying the history of World War Two, the book is a graphic memoir which brings the period to life.

Peter Hollindale

Royston, Angela. 50 Things You Should Know About the Human Body. QED, 2015, pp80, £8.99. 978 1 78493 134 6              

50 ThingsThis is an enjoyable and informative book concerning the human body and how it works, with good advice on eating well and keeping fit. There are highly coloured graphics, colour coded sections all presented in a lively style.  There are not a multitude of fonts which can end up just confusing the reader. Yes, the pages are busy but the information is still easy to access

The language is clearly expressed, again lively in tone and simple given the nature of the subject. More detailed notes/labels are put in much smaller size and I thought it was good to differentiate in this way – the basic information is in the largest size. There are catchy headings ‘Hair- raising!’ ‘Listen up!’ ’Stretchy stomach.’ The only thing that I could see that was missing was the reproductive system. There is a useful glossary and index. Highly recommended for the Library shelf –I can see two students pouring over this book at lunchtime 

Rosamund Charlish

16-19 extras

Reid, Raziel. When Everything Feels Like the Movies. Atom, 2016, pp163, £12.99. 978 1 4721 5126 1                       

This is a book which sets out to shock and outrage with its blunt, honest tone of voice, as Jude, the central character reveals himself to us. He lives his life as if he is on a film set and every chapter is a different cinematic experience. Jude does not hide anything: the language, the events, the people, the experiences are full on. Inspired by the true story of Larry Forbes King, this book reveals, in a very graphic way, just how difficult life can be for a young person; to be accepted for who they are and to be loved by others. As Jude takes us through his story, we meet his dysfunctional family and his outrageous friends and enemies. The reader learns how what we say and do can have a profound effect on those around us and Jude realises this himself - only too late.

Is this a book to recommend to your YA readers? It is a book that stays with you, but is that the graphic content or the tragic message that does that? You need to make your own mind up on this one.

Brenda Heathcote

Sullivan, Deirdre. Needle Work. Little Island, 2016, pp224,£7.99. 9781 910411 50 6     Needlework     

An odd title, which does admittedly relate to the subject matter of the book – the art of tattooing; a strange heroine / narrator with a strange name: Ces. The two are introduced on the first page: ‘Needles things that fascinate me always.’ Strange, too, are the narrative method and the style.

Ces is a sixteen year old struggling to emerge into adulthood from a horrifically deprived childhood. She lives with her mother whose life is chaotic: she neither cooks nor cleans and getting out of bed is only one of her many problems. Her husband has left her – in short a predictable, very familiar situation. Ces has a boyfriend who lives close by; it is a relationship which is hard to fathom – again the word ‘strange’ comes to mind.

The writer has chosen to allow Ces to use a ‘stream of consciousness’ technique to tell her story and express her thoughts and ideas. Interspersed at regular intervals with her narrative are passages which are presented in an italic type font. These often, but not always, relate to tattooing. Their relevance and indeed their significance are not always apparent. Clarity is often sacrificed in what would seem to be an attempt to achieve originality of approach. Young readers might find this fairly lengthy novel challenging.

Elizabeth Finlayson

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