We've seen a lovely selection of new books this month for older readers, ranging from thrillers and historical fiction to fantasy and adventure stories. Look out for the new Young Bond as well as a fabulous new story, Impossible, from Michelle Magorian (Goodnight Mr Tom author), and Jacqueline Wilson's thoughtful Opal Plumstead, her 100th book!

Black Ice
Becca Fitzpatrick

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471118142

Becca Fitzpatrick, who broke through with her bestselling debut Hush Hush, a paranormal drama, has delivered another perfectly-executed story, this time a psychological thriller. Britt has never been particularly adventurous but decides to spend her winter break trekking with her best friend Korbie. When they become stranded in a snow storm they knock on a cabin door to ask for help, only to find themselves taken hostage by the two men inside. Britt is forced to lead the men from the cabin back down the mountain and during that journey she starts to get to know one of them, Mason, better and to think that, maybe, he is on her side. But just as it seems help is at hand in the shape of her former boyfriend, all Britt's certainties are torn away. This is a great adventure story with sharp plotting and a number of unexpected twists and turns in the story that will keep readers hooked. The setting helps to pile on the tension with the dangers of snowstorms, bear attacks and other threats from the forest clearly researched. But Fitzpatrick also keeps us intrigued by the psychology of the two abductors as well as Britt's former boyfriend and there is enough romance woven through the plot to will keep Fitzpatrick's existing fans happy. 400 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Black Ice
Opal Plumstead
Jacqueline Wilson

Doubleday Children's Books

ISBN 9780857531094

Opal Plumstead is bestselling author Jacqueline Wilson's 100th published book and demonstrates that she remains perfectly tuned to how to keep her readers gripped by her story. Like her recent books, Opal Plumstead is again set in the past, this time the Edwardian period. 14-year-old Opal is a scholarship girl who is doing very well at school until her father steals some money from his company and is sent to prison, forcing the family he leaves behind to earn their own living. This includes Opal who has to leave school to go and work in the local Fairy Glen factory making sweets. While the story is written simply enough to make it readable for children aged eight years plus - and many Wilson fans will no doubt want to read it - the themes of the story make it better suited to slightly older readers. Opal's story revolves around her relationships at home, school and work and particularly the relationship between Opal, her sister Cassie and their mother which are well drawn. The setting also means that there is much to explore in terms of the Suffragette movement, the early days of unionisation and the treatment of workers and Wilson does so without weighing down the story. Opal gets some very lucky breaks during the time she spends at the factory, including falling in love with the factory owner's son, but it doesn't all end happily for her as the looming war casts a long shadow over all their lives. All in all, a very satisfying read that brings to life many aspects of the Edwardian period. 528 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Opal Plumstead
Half a Creature from the Sea: A Life in Stories
David Almond

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406354348

A beautiful volume of short stories and reminiscences told in David Almond's unique, simple but lyrical style. Memories from the author's childhood in Felling, on the banks of the Tyne, alternate with stories very much based on the people and places of the region. Throughout the book the boundary between biography and fiction blurs in a magical way. It is an intimate history of growing up on Tyneside in the 1950s; painting vivid pictures of the pits, the camaraderie, the council estates and the characters who lived there. More than that though, it is a superb collection of stories with a spiritual or mystical element and provides a fascinating insight into why David's writing has developed as it has. This is one to own as a physical hard-backed book; Eleanor Taylor's illustrations enhance the prose and match the mood of the stories brilliantly. It has the feel of something very special, and I can imagine it will be a very popular choice for gifts or prizes. 232 pages / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, librarian

Half a Creature from the Sea: A Life in Stories

ISBN 9780571308095

This story provides a funny, off-beat look at zombies when 12-year-old Adam dies after being stung by a bee and returns to life as a zombie. As well as having to return to school with a somewhat new look, he decides to take on the mystery of the bee that fatally stung him even though tests had proved he was not allergic to bee stings. Adam soon discovers he's not the only weird thing happening in his town; there is also a vampire and a 'chupacabra' (a strange, green lizard-like creature, who also happens to be Adam's best friend in daylight hours) about and when the three of them team up to uncover what's going on at the local research centre, trouble soon follows. Adam, who has an obsession with cleanliness - something of a drawback for a decomposing zombie - is a very likeable character and there is plenty of boyish humour in the story as well as vampire puns and footnotes that wire us into Adam's often odd perceptions of the world. 243 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

Stay Where You Are And Then Leave
John Boyne

Corgi Childrens

ISBN 9780552570589

Alfie will always remember what he was doing at the outbreak of the First World War; he was waiting for his fifth birthday party to start. His life changes from that moment; his father volunteers to enlist, his best friend and her father Mr Janacek are interned on the Isle of Man as potential spies, his father's best friend is labelled a coward and a conchie and sent to prison and his mother starts working as a nurse in a military hospital. As Alfie grows up, his Dad writes letters from the front but eventually the letters stop. Is his mother telling the truth when she says his Dad is on a top secret assignment for the government, or is his Dad dead as Alfie suspects? As time passes, money gets tighter and Alfie decides to use Mr Janacek's shoeshine box to earn some money to help out. While bunking off school to shine shoes he meets a doctor at a hospital for shell shock, and by an accident finds out the awful truth about his father. A broad reaching and deep story, simply told. A very useful addition to any school library, history or RE department collection; it covers many aspects of the war including moral and social dimensions. It could readily be used as a springboard for many class discussions such as on the nature of bravery and cowardice, individual human rights or social responsibility. The simple style, but depth of content, makes it accessible and useful to year 7 all the way through to sixth form. 247 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, librarian

Stay Where You Are And Then Leave
Michelle Magorian

Troika Books

ISBN 9781909991040

A rollicking adventure of kidnap, ruthless villains, and mistaken identity. Josie has always wanted to act and be on the stage like her older brother and sister, so she's thrilled that her Aunt Win is paying her fees at a London stage school. She soon realises that she hates school as the acting and dance lessons are truly terrible. She gets kidnapped, but being a plucky, brave, level-headed girl guide she manages to escape. The police and her aunt try to keep her safe from the kidnappers and the arch villain Mr Lovatt-Pendlbury, but as events unfold she gets into more and more danger. Meanwhile she is oblivious to most of this and is concentrating on learning as much as possible from Joan Littlewood and the Theatre Workshop Company with whom she takes refuge. In the dramatic finale, there is more than one life at stake, but the plucky Josie, brave old Aunt Winn and her friends along with the Frenchman (black Mr. Beauvoisin) manage to save the day, despite the incompetence of the police force and the scheming of Josie's headteacher. It's a long book, but Michelle Magorian has packed such a lot into it. You get a great sense of the excitement of the rapidly developing world of theatre, TV and film in 1959, when acting was moving on from being dominated by stiff upper class white actors with RP voices to a freer, more vibrant and representative world incorporating new jazz and dance styles and new approaches to roles. There is a lot to think about too in the way the women and black people are treated and how far this has changed in Britain since then. Magorian's magic is that none of this detail gets in the way of the story which speeds ahead. It has all the makings of a future classic. 585 pages /Age 11+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, librarian

Feel the Fear (Ruby Redfort, Book 4)
Lauren Child


ISBN 9780007334124

Lauren Child may have made a name for herself in creating picture books and the brilliant Charlie and Lola but she writes just as distinctive books for older readers. What I enjoy most about the Ruby Redfort series is finding a central character who delights in action and using her natural intelligence as she cuts her own very individual path through the world. Here's a worthy girl lead character - and one that it would be great to see more boys picking up to read! (although they might find the girl on the cover off-putting, which is a shame). Ruby Redfort is 13 and determined to stay on the books of the Spectrum agency as a trainee spy. Unfortunately, Spectrum has labelled her a liability after her last mission when she nearly got herself killed several times; she is now on trial. Can Ruby solve the mystery of a tight-rope walking, invisible thief and uncover the reason behind the peculiar thefts of a pair of tap shoes and a book of poetry - AND get herself back onto Spectrum's books? The Ruby Redfort books offer plenty of action but lots to think about, too, and are a great introduction to the crime thriller genre for confident readers aged ten years plus. 528 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Anna Glinn

Feel the Fear (Ruby Redfort, Book 4)
Young Bond: Shoot to Kill
Steve Cole

Doubleday Children's Books

ISBN 9780857533739

Imagine James Bond as a teenager, when did his life as a spy start? Did he even want to be a spy? Was he curious from a young age? Those are exactly the sort of questions addressed in this Young Bond book as James Bond is being formed into the famous adult spy - and finding out exactly what his talents and shortfalls are. Even his vulnerable side is shown; as he tries his best to survive in what becomes a violent, dangerous situation. There is a film noir atmosphere to this book, with gangsters, expensive cars and tortured souls. The sense of foreboding is set from the start and the reader is pulled into a dark world, where any character can be eliminated. This is an action-packed read, with strong characters and very dislikeable bad guys. The reader is keen for the evildoers to get their comeuppance, but it isn't until the last few chapters that all is explained and everyone's fate is revealed! Shoot to Kill will appeal to both sexes, but due to some of the violence (mainly gangster related), I would classify this as for 14+. It's a very fast paced read and perfect for reading aloud or to hook in reluctant readers. 304 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by: Sophie Castle

Young Bond: Shoot to Kill

ISBN 9781447272793

If you're looking to sprinkle a little Christmas magic in the run-up to the holidays, then look no further than My True Love Gave to Me, a collection of short stories all themed around Christmas and romance. Even those who aren't drawn to short stories will love this selection of stories written by established authors including Holly Black, Gayle Forman, David Levithan and Ally Carter on board. These stories, which have an American flavour, shimmer with magical creatures and the impossible becoming true as the lonely, the poor and the unhappy are helped to discover the magic in the worlds around them. Many of them, but not all, fall in love but the stories are also focused on friends and family, winter parties and New Year hopes. The subject matter including drinking and relationships makes this one for older readers and it could also be a great one to try on reluctant girl readers aged 14+. The book is also gorgeously packaged. 355 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Clariel: Prequel to the internationally bestselling fantasy series
Garth Nix

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471403842

What a treat to be able to re-enter the world of the Old Kingdom with Clariel, a prequel to the stories that begin with Sabriel (and which, together with Lirael and Abhorsen, is now available as e-books from publisher Hot Key Books). Clariel, who loves the freedom of the forests, has been forced to move to the city of Belisaere where her talented mother pursues her flourishing career as a goldsmith. Things are afoot though and all is not well in Belisaere where the king has all but abdicated to a missing successor and rival clans are plotting to usurp the throne. In addition to all this, the old Abhorsen is neglecting his duties and so dangerous Free Magic creatures are on the loose in the city. When her parents become entangled in one of the plots, Clariel is removed from the city for her own protection but instead of being allowed to linger in the forests she loves, she is all but imprisoned on an island. Unfortunately, Clariel has already experienced the power available to her through Free Magic creatures and the temptation to use it, albeit for good, changes Clariel and creates a new destiny for her - we meet her character in a later book, Lirael, where she has become Chlorr of the Mask. For those already familiar with the Old Kingdom books, the themes of Free Magic and the role of the Abhorsen will be familiar; others might want to start with the first completed book Sabriel, even if it is chronologically later than this book. Sabriel is a fabulous introduction to the rich, sophisticated and brooding world that Garth Nix has created in the Old Kingdom books. 600 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

Clariel: Prequel to the internationally bestselling fantasy series
Anne Plichota, Cendrine Wolf

ISBN 9781782690320

This, the third book in the Oksa Pollock series, continues to follow the trials and tribulations of Oksa, her family and various other Runaways as they search for a way back to their long lost home, Edefia. Their search, however, has assumed even greater urgency as it becomes clear that the survival, not only of Edefia, but also of the earth, depends on Oksa finding the way to Edefia and repairing the damage that has been done. To get there, though, the Runaways have to join forces with their sworn enemies, the Felons, under the command of Orthon, who hold part of the key which will give them access to Edefia. This uneasy alliance takes the group from London to Wales to the islands off the Scottish coast and finally to the deserts of Africa as they search for the Definitive Landmark. They face many dangers on their way as the outside world is threatened with total destruction. Torrential rain, floods, volcanoes and earthquakes all hamper their progress as they struggle to their goal but, even as they approach Edefia, a further complication arises which throws up all sorts of emotional issues for Oksa, Gus and some of the other Runaways. The adventures and perils come thick and fast, as in the previous books and there is still room for the humorous dialogue of the Lunatrix and the other strange creatures that make up the Runaways' entourage, but deeper themes are also developed. Love, family ties, loyalty and revenge all feature in this book as the Runaways face separation from their human loved ones. Though the story is obviously fantastical and magical, the character of Oksa is very well drawn and recognisable as that of any teenage girl growing up and coming to terms with new emotions that she does not yet understand. This book will only serve to further whet the appetite of those already hooked on the series and sets the scene for the fourth book. 333 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian

ISBN 9781780622187

The book opens with 14 year old Richard's chance encounter with a strange, ragged, one-eyed man wearing a shower cap who has buried himself in sand on a beach in order to protect nesting turtles. He turns out to be Clint Tyree, otherwise known as Skink, a former Governor of Florida who has dropped out of society and, according to Wikipedia, is dead. He lives mainly off road kill and is passionate about protecting the environment. Richard's cousin, Malley, has gone missing and it soon becomes evident that she is being held against her will. Richard and Skink set off to rescue her and the unlikely pair follow her trail to a remote area of Florida swampland. Here they encounter storms, alligators, vicious pigs and the evil T.C. as they pursue the missing girl. Skink is a character who has previously appeared in adult novels by Carl Hiaason but this is the first time he appears in a book aimed at young adults. He is a truly "larger than life" character who appears and disappears at will and seems to have almost superhuman physical powers. Richard, on the other hand, is a portrayed as a typical American teenager, and the story unfolds through his eyes. Their developing relationship (Richard's own father died when he was eight) is one of the highlights of the book The plot is totally implausible with some very bizarre episodes but it is highly entertaining and, at times, funny. The action, particularly once the pair arrive in the Florida swamp, is non-stop, though some might lose interest in the lengthy pursuit. Despite the fact that the language and culture is very American, this should be enjoyed by readers of 12+ who enjoy a quirky read. 279 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Karen Poolton, librarian

The Return Of Johnny Kemp
Keith Gray

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781124215

This short and well-crafted school story from Keith Gray adds to the decent stock from dyslexic-friendly editions from Barrington Stoke. Gray creates a realistic and familiar world of school and teenage life, with honest and believable dialogue. The main character Dan tells us his story in a day, from waking up to his friend Gary's phone call warning, as far as lunchtime at school where his life is transformed. Dan, prior to the story's opening, stood up to a bully -- Johnny Kemp -- and today marks the return to school of this ominous figure, who we hear lots about but only meet in the final pages, his reputation and legacy of fear more present with the reader than he himself. Gray's beautiful description at the start is enough on its own - "He was mean like barbed wire, dangerous like broken glass." We warm to Dan, through his first person narration, and we understand his character, motivation and honesty. Gray is careful to do this so that what finally happens shocks us. Gray's careful use of vocabulary and short sentences help us to hang our own school experiences and imagination onto his frame without it feeling patronising for a low reading age. We feel for Dan as each stock character or figure in his life he meets could change his story, as we journey with him to the conclusion. This is marketed for 14 years + with a reading age of 8. The main character is this age, but there is nothing unsuitable for younger readers. It stands up to adult reading too and therefore could work well for any reading age -- something every teenager can appreciate. 60 pages / 11+ years / Reviewed by Helen Swinyard, librarian

The Return Of Johnny Kemp
Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan and Maureen Johnson

ISBN 9781406352429

This set of short stories is based around the life of Magnus Bane, a Warlock from The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series. It gives the reader a much closer insight into the life of a Downworlder, which includes the races of Werewolf, Warlocks, Fairies and Vampires. They are portrayed as second class citizens in a World where humans are referred to as 'Mundanes' and the ruling classes are Shadowhunters. Fans of the Cassandra Clare series will enjoy the extra tales, especially as there are 10 short stories and an exclusive additional story told only in answer machine messages. All of the stories have a dark humour, yet are underpinned by more serious issues, such as: homosexuality, grief, ethnic origins, love and feeling accepted by others. There is also an interesting exploration of historical periods and the description of certain time periods draws the reader straight into the past, for example to the time of Prohibition. Each story is introduced by an illustrated quote from that tale, and these are the ideal 'tasters' to draw in the reader before each story. Even the titles of the stories are intriguing and often point to the dark humour of the story to come, i.e.: 'What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything'. This would be a good introduction for the fast paced short story and its structure, as well as the detail it would need to contain to entice the reader. The unusual illustrated beginning is also a good technique to explore. This is for the more confident reader and would appeal to those who have read The Mortal Instruments series. Due to the short story format of the book, it would also be useful as a class read for older students to explore themes that they can relate to, i.e. heartbreak. Other series that fans of Cassandra Clare will enjoy are: Throne of Glass by Sarah J.Maas, Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater, Curse Workers by Holly Black and The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. 528 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Sophie Castle, librarian

Sally Gardner

Orion Children's Books (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )

ISBN 9781780621494

Publisher Indigo has recently re-issued Sally Gardner's Tinder. Tinder is inspired by the Hans Andersen fairy tale, The Tinder Box, but richly re-imagines the tale and sets it in the real world context of the Thirty Years War. The soldier hero is Otto Hundebiss, who has lost all his family and friends to the terrible ravages of war and yet still fights for life and talks Death into leaving him behind, for even Death has had his fill on that terrible day. Gardner uses the allegory of fairy tale to discuss the evil and dehumanising effect of war and the ongoing challenge of doing the right thing. As in the traditional tale, the soldier has choices about how he uses his gifts and the treasure it brings and in seeking the hand of the pure and beautiful Safire, can he find redemption for his deeds and salvation for them both? The language of this dark, ominous and enthralling tale is rich and multilayered as are the absolutely exquisite illustrations from David Roberts which lavishly enhance, illuminate and extend the text. This is another book with so much value for class study and yet so satisfying to read for pleasure. 256 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Joy Court, Librarian