By: Ally Carter
An Embassy Row Novel
Grace Blakely is back in Adria, where her Grandfather is US Ambassador and her mother grew up. Her mother is why she is back, and there are so many memories. And memories are a big part of the problem, because Grace knows three things with certainty; that she isn’t crazy, that her mother was murdered and she is determined to find the killer and make them pay. No-one else believes her. Her issues mean she has no-one to trust.
Into this comes Noah, her new self-proclaimed best friend, he simply won’t take no for an answer when he pushes his way into her life. To complicate matters, Alexei the Russian, has promised to keep an eye on her because her brother has asked him to. Then she sees the man she swears killed her mother. Who can she get to help to prove it? It’s all more complicated because everyone on Embassy Row has to constantly be aware of scandal and international implications of what happens between them. Every move, every little action can have big ramifications, even going through the wrong door can cause an international incident. How will she convince people she is not losing it?
Carter has created a city with a story centred on the complexities of growing up in a truly international street. The gravitas provided by the knowledge everything that happens could have impact outside of the small contained world these characters live in, gives the story a whole other dimension. Grace is a damaged character and whilst it is good to see things such as anxiety and the like represented I find the extremes a little too intense. The brief moments of relief somehow don’t seem long enough, even though it does make sense eventually. Even though I did have a few niggles with Grace herself the story was entertaining and I went straight onto the second book.
Published: 1st February 2015
Key Words: Politics, Family, Conspiracy, Thriller
By: Stefan Bachmann
Bartholomew Kettle and his sister are different. They are Peculiars, that is they are half human, half faery. They live by the words, ‘Don’t get yourself noticed and you won’t get yourself hanged’. Bartholomew wants more, he doesn’t always listen to his mother, he tries to summon a house faery just to start. It gets worse though because Bartholomew sees a strange lady mysteriously disappear with the boy across they way, that is when he forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.
This tale takes the idea of the the fae, the not always nice creatures who have, in this world taken a place in it and in it’s politics. The world is complex with a very Victorian feel about it. Bartholomew is likeable enough and loyal beyond measure when something happens to his sister. The world is gritty and layered, nice little touches like mechanical creatures make for nice accents. The fae are as varied as humans can be so their is the element of the familiar mixed in with the different.
A good choice for those who like grittier tales and old mixed with new.
Published: 1st October 2012
Key Words: Faery, Steampunk, Family, Loyalty
By: Tamsin Janu
Figgy is a determined young girl who has two very big problems. The first is her name, there is no one else in the whole country that has Figgy for a name, unfortunately that is a problem she can do nothing about. The second problem and the worst one is that her Grandmother is very sick and needs special medicine. Figgy thinks there might be something she can do about that. In America they have the medicine that will help her Grandma, so she sets out to get herself and her goat to America. She doesn’t really know how to go about it but that isn’t going to stop her. It turns out getting to America isn’t so easy and many things happen along the way.
Figgy is a wonderful, determined and loyal girl. She sets her mind to something and goes about trying to do it the best way she can. Life though is something that happens whilst you are doing things and for Figgy it becomes the most incredible adventure filled with loss and gain. Nana comes into her life and fills it in a way Figgy hadn’t expected, he opens his life to her and his actions tug at her loyalty strings. Figgy’s bravery speaks to those who come in contact with her and you cannot help but champion her along her way. A wonderful read set in a world of poverty and lack that many will have limited understanding of, this though gives the chance to open dialogue about things that really matter, or you can just read and be swept up into Figgy’s world.
Published: 1st June 2014
Key Words: Life, Adventure, Friendship, Family, Hardship, Ghana
By: Amiee Carter
Kitty Doe is a III, brash and annoyed with herself for messing up her one chance to become a IV. Feeling as if it was all a waste she decides to celebrate by stealing an orange, a silly thing really but if she gets caught that could mean the end of her life, but right at this moment she doesn’t much care, as long as Benjy doesn’t take the blame he still has a chance. Then she gets thrown a massive curve ball, offered the chance of a life time and join the most powerful family in the country and become an VII. The catch, she will be masked, surgically transformed to look like the Prime Minister’s niece, Lila Hart. There is more, it will be her job to stop the rebellion, a cause Kitty believes in. The deeper she goes down this path the more she uncovers and Kitty isn’t the only one who believes in the rebellion, it was a cause Lila herself secretly supported and in all likelihood what got her killed. Kitty has to uncover the truth and decide what is most important to her. She needs to figure out how to play the political game she has been thrust into.
A familiar plot, someone is thrust to greatness from poverty only to find that all is not as it seems. Kitty thought she had nothing to lose but when she digs down into it she discovers so much more about herself. It is a good story, an interesting world. Carter has handled the complexities of the situation Kitty finds herself in well. I would perhaps have enjoyed this more if it had not come out at a time when there were several other books with very similar themes on the new releases list. Now we are further away from that I have to say it will appeal to those who like their stories gritty, their characters multi-layered and a little flawed, and a good bit of political manipulation and conspiracy.
Published: 1st December 2013
Key Words: Dystopian Fantasy, Politics, Conspiracy
By: Alice Hoffman
Twig is isolated, she doesn’t really have friends. It’s not that she isn’t loved it’s just her family has a secret. Twig’s mother is the most beautiful woman in their town and is famous for her apple pies and honey butter, that doesn’t stop the talk and that doesn’t stop the mystery. Everything changes though when Julia and Agate move in next door. Twig has never had friends before and their influence brings her out of her shell. These girls are bound together even more so as the secrets reach the surface and lives will be changed forever.
Hoffman has created a twisting and enchanting tale. Twig pulls at the emotions as you want her to embrace these new friends but as you are drawn into the family story and it’s secret heart. It is a story that whilst removed from the familiar and the possible parallels in our world where difference is at the heart of so many problems. This is a story that can simply be read and enjoyed as it comes to its emotional and uplifting crescendo or you can look deeper into its themes and use it to springboard some solid discussion of weightier matters.
An enchanting read and recommended.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 1st March 2015
Key Words: Family, Mystery
By: Ally Carter
Bk 4 of the Gallagher Girls series
Cammie was born to be a Gallagher Girl, and that has always come with the knowledge that it is a life full of risk and danger. There has always been a buzz associated with that, with knowing that she was Cammie the Chameleon. Now though things have changed a terrorist organisation is set on kidnapping her and someone she has always looked up to, trusted and respected has been come to be labelled as a double agent, a traitor. For Cammie it feels as though her world is falling apart. All of this impacts on her school life as well, so many things have changed. Who can Cammie now trust? Her best friends of course. Together they must work through the new problems and still deal with all the stuff spy school throws at them.
This addition to the series throws a darker twist on things as Cammie’s safety nets are pulled from her and she has to discern truth in amongst a whole lot of lies, lies delivered by trained liars. The complexity of the story and the layers drag the reader in an keep you engaged. The world is one as we know it and that makes it identifiable and let’s face it there is a part of many of us who’d love to believe a spy school such as this existed. The characters are varied and complement each other well, within themselves they have strengths and weaknesses that Carter draws out of them. These books are fast paced and sheer entertainment. A great read and to be honest in my humble opinion would be decent source material for a movie or three.
Published: 24th June 2010
Key Words: Spy, Action, Friendship
By: Rick Riordan
The Trials of Apollo Bk 1
Apollo is in a whole world of hurt, he is used to being a god but now he is a 16 year old boy stuck in the mortal world because Zeus has cast him down. He now has to find what it is he has to do in order to regain his godhood. To add to his mortification he is rescued from his first beating by twelve year old Meg. He persuades Percy Jackson to take them both to Camp Half-Blood hoping that whilst there he can find some answers but the Camp is in chaos, things are not as they should be, campers are missing and the oracle is not working. How can you go on a quest when the being who issues the quests is unable to do so? Somehow Apollo needs to confront his fears, overcome the limitations of his now teenage, human body and deal with betrayal such as he has never felt before.
This is a fun entry into the world of demigods. Apollo is a funny and at times irritating character with his self-importance and egotistic ways. The blending of a teenagers imperfections with the mind of an ancient god makes for some very amusing moments. Twelve year old Meg is the perfect foil for the fallen god, her street smarts and ultimately damaged personality contrast beautifully with his grandiosity. It is going to be interesting to see where the character of Meg is taken, all the demigods have issues and most have parental issues but it seems that Meg’s issues have the potential to touch on some darker territory. The pace as always with these stories is fast, the action at times quite nasty. Riordan has given us a horrible yet interesting villain (an no I won’t tell you who it is – no spoilers). It is always nice to go back to the camp and see what has changed and what hasn’t, new campers who come to the fore. I look forward to the next instalment of this series.
Publisher: Puffin Books
Published: 3rd May 2016
Key Words: Action, Adventure, Humour, Mythology