NEW TITLES

Fantasy and horror, historical fiction and romance are among the books highlighted by our teachers and librarians in this month's reviews, with plenty to please older teenagers who are looking for page-turning horror and thrillers.

The Dog Who Saved the World
Ross Welford

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780008256975

When 11-year-old Georgie and her best friend Ramzy meet a slightly mad and eccentric scientist, their world is about to change dramatically. Georgie's beloved dog Mr Mash gets sick, along with vast numbers of other dogs throughout the world. Could it be that this is only the start of something much, much worse? The stakes are higher than Georgie could possibly have imagined. The thing about Ross Welford books (Time Travelling with a Hamster, The 1,000 Year old boy and What Not to do if you Turn Invisible) is that they are utterly original. (I had trouble classifying on here!) You simply won't have read anything like this book before, as dog lovers come face to face with an end of world scenario. The imagination in the story is second only to the pace and excitement, as this book is unputdownable. As with all Ross Welford's books, it is the ordinary coupled with the completely believable fantasy that make the story so compelling. It almost seems as if it could be true, such are the elements of story telling woven together. I read the book, almost in one sitting, on the edge of my seat, the story was so vividly brought to life. My 11-year-old could not wait to get his hands on this book - he was the one who first introduced me to the author. I can see this being a very popular choice for upper key stage 2 children, especially with a tagline like 'He smells. He'll eat anything and he's humanity's only hope' (It is talking about the dog of course!) This book seems destined for more awards and praise for the author; very well deserved. This is very much a book and an author that goes top of the list to be read for pleasure. 416 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher consultant.

The Dog Who Saved the World
The Legend of Sally Jones
Jakob Wegelius

Pushkin Children's Books

ISBN 9781782692331

On a stormy night, a hundred years ago, a baby gorilla was born deep in the African rain forest. The gorilla elders prophesied that this baby would meet with many misfortunes. So begins the story of Sally Jones. Kidnapped and smuggled to Istanbul, trained as a thief, abandoned, locked in a small and dirty cage, beaten and treated with great cruelty - these are a few of the misfortunes which poor Sally is subjected to in the course of her life before she finds peace and companionship at last. Written as the prequel to The Murderer's Ape, The Legend of Sally Jones is the story of Sally Jones's life before she met her friend, the Chief, and found a home on board the Hudson Queen. It is a sad story of man's callous attitude to animals and how casually they abuse them for their own ends. Rich white Europeans are shown exploiting the land and its animals. Belgian hunters, a Turkish ivory merchant, a rich widow from Hamburg, zoo keepers- each play their part in Sally's sad life. Only Koskela, a Finnish seaman,shows her the kindness and respect she deserves, nursing her back to health and valuing her. Each page is beautifully illustrated with one panel, often framed in interesting and unusual ways, reminding me of old fashioned travel posters. So much emotion and additional detail is conveyed to the reader through these pictures. Sally's deep despair and dejection are plain for all to see through her eyes and her body language. The Legend of Sally Jones is a stunning graphic novel which allows readers of The Murderer's Ape to discover the early history of Sally Jones, a compelling heroine like no other. It is a book which the reader will return to again and again. 112 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

The Legend of Sally Jones
Our Castle by the Sea
Lucy Strange

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911490524

Set during the first few years of World War II, this is the story of Pet (Petra) and her family, who live in a lighthouse on the Kent coast. The lighthouse stands by the Daughters of Stone, a group of four standing stones and this story cleverly combines ancient legends with the coming of war. Pet is young and scared for a whole host of reasons, not least the war itself. Her big sister Mags is growing up and becoming more distant and her mother, who is German, is becoming unpopular in the village with the start of hostilities with Germany. Village life by the sea is vividly captured and details about the lighthouse itself create the central focal point for the story. This book ramps up the tension from the start; the reader knows something is about to happen, but it is not a predictable story line. In fact, there was only one bit of the plot I guessed beforehand, and it is this aspect that makes it a very exciting read. It is also a story told from a point of view with a different slant from other children's wartime fiction. There are little details that make it thought provoking, such as the passing of laws about enemy aliens, and these have strong echoes with the current situation about immigration. Many schools cover World War II as part of their history curriculum, and this book is a very good addition to the reading material available for Upper Key Stage 2. Classes studying life in England during the war will have plenty to ponder on and as it is not about evacuees or life in the city, it makes it a welcome extra fiction title for the topic. Chosen as an Indie's Bookshops book of the month, this is a haunting story that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page and I have to confess I shed a few tears at the end! 336 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher.

Our Castle by the Sea
The Whispers
Greg Howard

Puffin

ISBN 9780241367087

The Whispers of the title are mysterious creatures who live in the wood and can grant wishes. Riley's mama told him tales of these creatures before she disappeared. Riley cannot remember what happened that day and so decides, together with his dog Tucker and his friend Gary, to try to find The Whispers himself and ask them for help finding his much loved Mama. Tangled in this mystery is one of Riley's 'conditions' - he likes boys and thinks this is the reason his dad doesn't seem to love him anymore, and is the cause of his mother's disappearance. Although this book is not difficult to read, the themes of traumatic childhood grief, homosexuality and homophobia are mature ones, and I would probably mainly recommend it to pupils of 11+. There is a great deal of the author in this book and he says it is 'the most personal story I have ever written'. Like Riley, he had a strict religious upbringing, and like Riley, spent much of his youth isolating himself as he hid his homosexuality. There is a strong sense of place in The Whispers; the rural community, the cornfields and the woods. This was where Greg Howard found freedom as a child, and it is where Riley finds out the truth about his mama and his healing can begin. The ending is a positive one as Riley realises what has happened, that his mother loved him unconditionally, as does his father. He also discovers that, despite his behaviour, his friends have stuck by him and will continue to do so. A great book to have in your library partly because of its themes but also because it is a really good read! 256 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Heather Bignold, school librarian.

The Whispers
Little Bird Flies
Karen McCombie

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9780857639103

Bridie, known as Little Bird, lives on the Isle of Tornish in Scotland in the 1860s. Her life is simple and happy until the new Laird of the island changes everything with his cruel plans. Bridie has always longed to leave Tornish and longs to see the world, but this is not the escape she had planned. Bridie is a determined heroine and this story is an exciting blend of adventure and history. The characters are vividly drawn and brought to life. Bridie's family - her two older sisters, younger brother and father, are the main focus of the story (her mother is dead), but every character is interesting, and the social history involved quite detailed. The children, for example, only go to school if there happens to be a teacher there and when the teacher leaves, they simply don't go. The older girls have already left school and take jobs as servants. Bridie's life seems unimaginably free to many modern children; she just goes out and about as she pleases, climbing rocks - no health and safety warnings for her!. If you are looking for a story with a strong female central character (who also happens to have a disability; a twisted foot and withered hand), then this book most definitely fits the bill. If you are looking for a historical novel set in the Victorian era, then this book also works well. For me, the real interest is in the setting I know very little about but can imagine from the story. I felt the sadness of leaving as Bridie did and await the next story of her life, Little Bird Lands, with great anticipation. 256 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, consultant teacher.

Little Bird Flies
Prosper Redding: The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding: Book 1
Alexandra Bracken

Quercus Children's Books

ISBN 9781786540683

Young Prosper Redding really doesn't seem to fit in. Born into an illustrious American family that can trace its ancestry back to the time of the Pilgrim Fathers, poor Prosper feels thoroughly unexceptional. Unexceptional, that is, until he discovers that an ancestor made a pact with a malefactor which he later broke, and this demon has now taken up residence inside Prosper with the sole purpose of destroying the Redding family. The voice of the narrator, Prosper, is a real strength of this story. He is completely believable and has a wonderfully dry sense of humour. Yet within Prosper there is another, internal voice: that of the demon Alastor, and this provides an extra dimension to the dialogue which the author uses to great effect. I will confess to wondering where this story was going as I read the opening chapters, as the tongue-in-cheek humour felt at odds with the events taking place, but as the plot unfolded and I got to know Prosper better, I really got on board with this compelling story. The spooky setting of Redhood, the Founder's Day rituals, 'haunted' house, Halloween touches and historical colour bring events and characters to life and bathe the plot in an eerie sense of the past, while contrasting with the everyday life of a present-day tweenage misfit. With a film in the offing, this is one to read before it hits the big screen. 362 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

Prosper Redding: The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding: Book 1
The Valentines: Happy Girl Lucky
Holly Smale

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780008254148

You might be forgiven for thinking that Hope Valentine is a girl who has it all. She and her three siblings are the latest generation in the Valentine dynasty of Hollywood A-listers who live a privileged life in their palatial home, and when the Valentine sisters squabble over clothes, it is usually Gucci, Chanel or Stella McCartney! Yet for some time now Hope's mother has been in rehab and her father is busy directing a film across the pond in Hollywood. The intense press interest into the Valentine clan has led to the siblings being educated at home and so the only friends Hope has for company are those she conjures up with her own imagination. The cover of my proof copy bears the slogan 'Fall in love with the Valentines' and I have to say that it is hard not to fall under the spell of the irrepressibly optimistic, absurdly romantic (and aptly named) Hope. She is so steeped in the conventions of the romantic comedies in which her parents starred that she views every potential romantic encounter as a movie scene to be honed and perfected. At these moments her thoughts are presented to the reader in screenplay dialogue, which I loved. In her attempts to forge a new relationship and with her family crumbling around her, poor Hope clings ever more tightly to her desire for a happy ending, taking her far from home on a romantic mission to set everything right. As fans of the wonderful Geek Girl series would expect, there are laughs aplenty. (Look out for the episode when Hope takes a Hollywood celebrity bus tour. This had me hooting with laughter on a packed commuter train!) What might at first glance seem a slightly frothy (yet utterly enjoyable) story evolves significantly as the plot develops and there are messages of empowerment, acceptance, courage, honesty and sibling love in addition to romance within these pages. I can't wait to recommend this to my readers and I just know that this brightly-coloured package of sheer joy (a little like Hope herself) will be flying off the shelves. Highly recommended! 471 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

The Valentines: Happy Girl Lucky
How to Rob a Bank
Tom Mitchell

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780008276508

15 year old Dylan Thomas (who is utterly sick of everyone asking 'Have you written any poetry yet?') wants to impress Beth by getting her just the right birthday present. He decides on a scented Nepalese candle. He gives it to her, she lights it, it stinks. They blow it out and throw it in the bin. Next thing they know, her house has burnt down - and it turns out the family had no insurance. Beth's family have lost everything, and can't afford to pay the deposit on the tiny flat they've had to move in to. Convinced it is all his fault, Dylan decides to take action, to make a big gesture and to help out in the only way he can think of: he plans to rob a bank, armed with only a USB stick and a Saturday job. He just needs to finish his history homework first... How To Rob A Bank is a fun teen crime caper, with a likeable, if slightly misguided, main character. There were some genuinely funny moments in the book (most notably involving a cat and a satellite dish), but there were a couple of things that didn't quite win me over. There is an air of unbelievability to the story: the bank manager is a bit of a pantomime villain, and the romance element felt a bit forced. Is bank robbing technology that readily available, and is it really that easy for a 15 year old to get hold of? However, these were largely minor quibbles - what's a novel without a bit of suspension of disbelief? This book would appeal to students looking for a fun read - maybe someone who feels they have outgrown the David Walliams books. While the main character is 15, there is nothing in the book that is inappropriate or off putting middle grade readers. 288 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Daniel Katz, school librarian.

How to Rob a Bank
Stay A Little Longer
Bali Rai

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781128329

A hard-hitting tale of loss, family and adversity. This novel hit me hard! A real tear-jerker from the start, this story had me thinking about the characters for some time afterwards. For any young people dealing with bereavement or loss, this story is relatable in many ways. Author Bali Rai portrays a young girl (Aman) whose father passes away. Aman is struggling to come to terms with her loss and struggles to talk about it. Soon a kind and gentle man - Gurnam - moves into her street and Aman strikes up a friendship with this man. Guram begins to help Aman deal with her loss, but soon Aman discovers Gurnam has a secret of his own, one he is struggling to come to terms with and one which could tear him away from his new friends forever... An optimistic tale that deals with the issue of homophobia in modern society, particularly in other cultures. The theme is gently intertwined within the narrative and Rai should be praised for the way he has crafted and delivered this sensitive issue. ;My heart ached for Aman and her loss, she clearly struggles with her death of her father and it was very sad to read. It is a beautiful tale and you will absolutely fall in love with Aman and Gurnam's fatherly relationship. I would recommend this book for ages 12+ due to its occasional sensitive topics of homophobia, death and suicide. Barrington Stoke publish these stories on thick, sepia paper which make them accessible for a range of reading abilities. With 115 pages and larger font, many of my students were confident in picking this book up and completing it. 115 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

Stay A Little Longer
Everless: Evermore: Book 2
Sara Holland

Orchard Books

ISBN 9781408359518

Evermore, throws us right back into Jules world, and there isn't much time to catch your breath. Jules has returned to Crofton to find her friend Amma. Except, a very dangerous Caro is waiting for her and with the help of her guards, Jules is quickly captured and thrown in prison. I'm not going to tell you much more as it will be a spoiler! Jules needs answers. She is still reeling from what she has learned about herself and is coming to grips with her new reality. She struggles to choose her next path - flee, or fight for the final life she has! Much of Evermore follows Jules while she digs through her past (twelve lives!) for a way to defeat the sorceress. Even though she has the help of Liam, this journey is not an easy one. Evermore has more action than book one, Everless and much more magic. This sequel doesn't have the mystery of 'time as a currency', this concept doesn't get much of a mention, instead it focuses more on the fantasy side of the plot, not the sci-fi. However, the pacing is great, the characters develop and grow and the author has built in some slow burning romance between Jules and Liam to keep the reader engaged. As the reader gets deeper into the story, we learn quite a bit about Jules' and Caro's pasts, as well as what fuelled the divide between them. Friendship plays a large part in this sequel, Jules knows Caro is seeking her every weakness, most of all her friends - but even though she pushes them away to try to save them, she needs them to help her succeed in destroying Caro. Evermore has 346 well written magical pages, that contain manageable chapters which are full of unexpected twists and turns. The book is suitable for 12+ readers and older reluctant readers who enjoy fantasy fiction. So if you like a bit of magic, sorcery, death, secrets, a blossoming romance and so much more - give this book a read, I feel that you will not be disappointed. 346 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Everless: Evermore: Book 2
The Twisted Tree
Rachel Burge

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471407765

I can't say it any better than the blurb on the back of this wonderfully, written book: 'The Twisted Tree is a chilling ghost story inspired by Norse legend.' Martha can tell things about a person just by touching their clothes, as if their emotions and memories have been absorbed into the material. It started the day she fell from the tree at her grandma's cabin and became blind in one eye. Without giving too much away, Martha decides to go and see her Mormor (grandma), who lives on the tiny, isolated island of Skjebne in Norway. When she eventually gets there, things don't turn out as she hoped and as the very first page tells you, ...'the horror of these past few days might never have happened'. I was totally gripped by this chilling tale that is centred around Norse myths and legends. Martha is a great main character, you will find yourself rooting for her, willing her to succeed as she not only battles with her own demons, she has to deal with supernatural ones as well. The Twisted Tree is a great read. Due to its dark content of mild horror, ghosts, ghouls, myths, Norse legends and a touch of romance thrown into the mix, The Twisted Tree will have YA readers turning the pages eagerly well into the night! The book contains 242 atmospheric pages that engage the reader right from the first page. Suitable for 13+ readers of chillers and thrillers. Confident readers will perhaps read this in one sitting, less confident in two or three. I also think this would be a great book for reading groups as there are opportunities for research and discussion. This book has everything, it's got a great plot with twists you don't see coming, with interesting characters that you care about, contains lots of atmosphere and is chillingly creepy! I'm sure this will be a big hit with YA readers. Hope there will be a sequel! 242 pages / Ages 13+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

The Twisted Tree
Paper Avalanche
Lisa Williamson

David Fickling Books

ISBN 9781910989968

Ro Snow is the girl no-one notices - she never has friends round because her home is full of rubbish and paper and she can't remember the colour of the carpet it's been so long since she's seen it. Her mum, Bonnie, is a hoarder and Ro lives in terror of social services finding out about the squalor she is forced to live in. But when Noah moves in next door, Ro can't hide the truth from him and she finds herself opening up for the first time in her life. And then there's the new girl at school, the adorable and persistent Tanvi, who can see that carefully hidden something-special in Ro too. And it's not long before Ro's carefully constructed castle of loneliness is crumbling down around her. What can I say? Yet another stunning novel from Lisa Williamson. Paper Avalanche will have you reaching for the tissues on more than one occasion, shouting out loud in frustration and rooting for Ro all the way through. Ro is a wonderful warm and caring character, her 'best friend' Tanvi is lovable and vivacious and Noah is just perfect for Ro. There is the usual horrible selection of students in Ro's year who are depicted as callous, vindictive and uncaring but a refreshing change is one minor character Cassie who seems to empathise in a small way with the bullying situations that affect Ro. Ro's parents are far from perfect. Her dad is awful! He has left Ro's mum (fair enough) but for him Ro now seems to be a necessary inconvenience that he would rather not have to deal with, much preferring his new wife Melanie and step-daughter Izzy. Bonnie, Ro's mum, is childishly unreliable and self-absorbed, even out of the chaotic home situation. Read the sequence when Ro desperately needs her mum to accompany her to an audition in London and I defy you to not want to shake some sense into her! However, towards the end you do start to warm to Bonnie just a little bit and hope beyond hope that she will change. Warning! You will need tissues at the end of the novel and yet there is no happy ending as such, you can only hope that things will begin to get better for Ro in her chaotic homelife. Bonnie promises to change and we begin to see a small glimpse of that but you are left under no illusion that Ro's dad is ever going to be the father she wants him to be. Sensitive, compelling and inspirational I just couldn't put it down. Recommended for all YA fiction fans who love being on an emotional rollercoaster. 371pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Lucy Georgeson, school librarian.

Paper Avalanche
Two Can Keep a Secret
Karen McManus

Penguin Books Ltd

ISBN 9780141375656

Loved it... once again Karen McManus has written a thriller that is full of suspense and will keep you guessing until the last page! She has a skill, in my opinion, that keeps the reader engaged until the very end. Ellery and her twin brother Ezra go to live with their grandma while their mom is in rehab. They have never been to their mom's hometown of Echo Ridge before but they have heard all about it. Their aunt went missing there at the age of 17. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map once again when she was killed. The town appears on the surface to be picture-perfect, but it is hiding many secrets. Before school even starts for the twins, the murderer seems to be back, promising to make homecoming as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, another girl goes missing! If you liked the series 'Pretty Little Liars', you will love this stand-alone story. I did feel some similarities, (pretty blonde girls) but they are totally unrelated. The plot is full of drama with loads of twists and turns and without giving too much away, it's NOT who you think it is, trust me, the ending took me by surprise and I'm an adult reader!! The story is made up of 323 suspense-filled pages that are suitable for confident and less confident 14+ readers due to the occasional use of bad language, secrets, mild violence and death. The chapters are short and alternate between two of the main characters Ellery and Malcolm. It would have been nice to have had a perspective from Ezra and his sidekick Mia as well,(perhaps there is another book,in there somewhere?) This is the author's second book, loved it just as much as her debut novel One of us is Lying. If you haven't read that one, get a copy of it as well. I will just add ... Karen McManus has become one of my favourite YA writers, she is a genius at adding a twist into the plot. You must give this book a read, I promise you will not be disappointed. Such a clever writer! 336 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian. To quote another reader "I gave up my sleep to find out who the killer is." 336 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda brown, school librarian.

Two Can Keep a Secret
Whiteout
Gabriel Dylan

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781788950725

Charlie hopes that the school ski trip will be the escape from his unhappy home life he so desperately needs. But there is something wrong with the remote ski village of Kaldgellan. Something is out there, something ancient and evil, among the pines and the deep untracked drifts, watching and waiting. And when the blizzards blow in, Charlie and his schoolmates wake to find the resort deserted. Cut off from the rest of the world far below, as night falls the few left alive on the snowbound mountain will wish they were somewhere, anywhere else. Only ski guide Hanna seems to know of Kaldgellan's long-buried secrets, but whether Charlie can trust her is another question. One by one the group dwindles in horrific detail and circumstance thanks to mysterious creatures with razor-sharp teeth and talons until there are only four of them left. I was quite happy to follow the well-drawn characters of Charlie, Hanna, Nico and Tara along. They were all diverse enough that you easily get to grips with whose point of view you are reading. Each had their own unique back story which in turn was incredibly readable. Hanna in particular is a believable strong leader and the 'will they, won't they' relationship with Charlie felt utterly genuine. There is so much to admire about this impressive, breathless, debut novel from Gabriel Dylan. It is a claustrophobic tale drenched in blood! As the beautifully gory and haunting story unfolds there is a filmic quality to the narrative which captivates until its eerie, terrifying and exhilarating finale deep in the mountains. Beware - expect to be chilled by the epilogue! Whiteout focuses on that determination to survive against the odds, pitting characters against extreme weather conditions and cannibalistic creatures of the night. Perfectly paced, and filled with well-timed twists and shocks. Dylan has created a monstrous presence that stays with you long after the final ski lift has departed into the dusk. A stunning addition to the Red Eye series. Highly recommended for teens and adults alike, it will chill you to your core. 359 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Lucy Georgeson, school librarian.

Whiteout
Thrill Seekers
Edwina Shaw

ISBN 9781785916755

Cutting edge. Raw. Powerful. Thrill Seekers is an intense ride through the lives of young boys for whom life has simply become too much. With every chapter a little mini story in itself, this story will grip readers with its realistic setting (Brisbane) and characters. The tale follows 'Brian', whose Father dies in the opening few chapters, leaving behind his mother and brother Douggie for Brian to now look after. But, it all becomes too much as Brian's mother turns to alcohol and Douggie starts hearing and seeing things. Brian and his mates - the 'Oxley Creek Boys' - spend almost every evening drinking until they pass out, doing copious amounts of drugs and having a lot of sex in attempts to find their place in the world. But, things begin to spiral out of control and Brian is forced to 'wake up' and realise the reality of his life and must learn to grow up. But with friendships dying, his brother locked up and his own mental health hanging in the balance, suddenly life isn't so easy. At first I found this a difficult read it does contain a lot of expletives, excessive drug/alcohol use and sexual violence. However, the moral behind the tale of these boys is an interesting take on modern society. This tale depicts the severe dangers of drug/alcohol abuse and accurately pin points how difficult it can be to find a way out of the cycle. I would say that I would not recommend this to any of the teenagers in my classroom due to its intense content. However, it is delightfully fresh and original so would recommend to older/responsible readers. This is the sort of book that you think about for a long time afterwards and which makes you look at youth culture with a fresh perspective. The characters feel intensely real, the narratives feel real and by the end you ache with the truth of what you have just read. On this merit alone, this book deserves to do well. 176 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

Thrill Seekers

ISBN 9781785039713

This trilogy has got to be one of the best I have read in a very long time. I was so happy to have got an advanced copy so that I could continue reading as soon as I finished book 2 (Girl in the Tower) but sad that my journey with Vasya would be at an end. Winter of the Witch picks up the story from the end of book 2 without pause and then picks up the pace until the last word at the end. This in my opinion is the strongest part of the story. It's full of emotion (really had me in tears a few times); some of the scenes are so harrowing that the story leaves the reader wanting more, and there are so many unexpected twists and turns that it leaves you breathless. Vasya, who has to flee into Midnight to save her life, returns stronger and more determined. She takes on the task to help Dimitrii, along with her brother Sasha, to save Moscow from the Tatars, with the hope that she can prove that the old faith and new religion can coexist. Along the way we meet wonderful new characters and get reunited with old ones. And to top it all off there is a twist on a real Russian historical event! I cannot delve much more into the story as it will spoil it for you, the reader. However, I will give a quick mention for the ending. It's good as it is but I felt there wasn't a full closure, there are a few things left unsaid. Hopefully, there could be another book or novella in the future? I really hope so as I would love to go on another adventure with these wonderfully written characters. Winter of the Witch contains 384 very well written, emotive pages that are suitable for the 14+ confident reader of fantasy/folklore. Great once again for book clubs and as a classroom read, there are so many discussion points. This is one of the finest blends of fairytale/folklore and history that will appeal to any reader of fantasy. I thoroughly recommend it, especially as a winter read, it will give it even more atmosphere! 384 page / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Only the Ocean
Natasha Carthew

Bloomsbury YA

ISBN 9781408868607

Kel Crow is a swamp girl, raised in deprivation on the wrong side of the tracks by a family renowned for their lawless and bleak existence. Her tough exterior means she keeps a distance from the baby she is raising and hides a fear of the heart condition that shadows her every move. In a post-apocalyptic, flooded land, Kel feels trapped and is determined to escape to America and the medical help that might save her. Desperate, she accepts a dangerous deal to stowaway and kidnap a girl. The plan is simple; get the girl, get paid and leave. But fate intervenes and Kel and the girl, Rose, end up lost at sea and surrounded by the dangers of the ocean and the pirates that patrol it. This is an unusual story that feels raw, edgy and dangerous from the start. Kel and Rose are both hard to like, Rose is spoilt and Kel bitter and brittle, but slowly the girls start to form an unlikely bond. As with a lot of books now there is a cautionary environmental note, but it feels completely right here as Kel and Rose drift the ocean surrounded by discarded junk, and unable to help themselves. The last third of the book feels more urgent as Rose hovers near death and the girls begin to acknowledge the depth of their feeling for each other. The pace of the book may be a little slow for some but Carthew's lyrical writing and uncompromising style make this feel vivid and utterly original. Part epic sea journey this is also a story about love and hope that would be ideal for more mature readers. 258 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

Only the Ocean