Friday, 20 June 2014

Titles for More Mature readers

Picture Me Gone
Written by Meg Rosoff
Penguin (eB) £12.99
ISBN: 978-0141344034
Meg Rosoff has once more produced a compelling tale that is powerful and haunting. Though brief, it is beautifully written. Mila and her father are in America trying to find his best friend, Matthew, who has gone missing, leaving his wife and baby son. Mila has always been very perceptive, often seeing things that busy grown-ups miss, and she soon realises that there is more to Matthew’s disappearance than meets the eye. As more of his hidden life comes to light, Mila begins to despair of, and for, adults. As the story progresses, more secrets are uncovered and the tension builds. Matthew’s disappearance weighs heavily on each of the characters for different reasons, and Mila is both puzzled and disappointed by their actions. Meg Rosoff has given us credible characters, both flawed and vulnerable. They may not have in-depth back stories, but you know as much as you need to. In Honey, she has written the most believable portrayal of a dog I have ever read. The conclusion is completely satisfying with no huge reveals or shocks, just an ideal resolution to this very understated story. Highly recommended!
Jane Hall

Sad Monsters
Written by Frank Lesser
Souvenir Press (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-0285642324
The innocent illustration of a cute monster on the cover of Sad Monsters belies the adult humour inside, within stories that are often laugh-out-loud funny. US satirist Frank Lesser has taken all the monsters one would expect, i.e. vampires, zombies, and werewolves, but shows us sides of them we never knew existed. Godzilla wonders if there is more to life than destroying cities, when really he prefers to stay at home and watch M*A*S*H! The forty, short, monster tales in the book are not designed to be read in one sitting. If kept as a ‘dip-in’ book, then each separate tale will entertain. While some of the stories are innocent, many of the monsters have adult issues, such as searching for a job, body image, and sexual relationships. There is no actual ‘adult language’, but there are frequent allusions to mature themes which younger children will not understand, and could cause embarrassment for any parent asked to explain. Great subversive fun for older teens!
Jane Hall

Small Damages
Written by Beth Kephart
Philomel (eB) £10.87
ISBN: 978-0142426418
This mature and lyrically written story is perfectly flavoured with the tastes, sights and sounds of Spain. Beth Kephart writes with a simple but elegant intensity that matches the mood of the story. Still grieving for her father and coping with her mum’s new career, Kenzie throws both her and her boyfriend’s futures into doubt when she becomes pregnant. So that no-one in their home town will find out about the baby, Kenzie’s mother sends her daughter to stay with friends in Spain who organise an adoption. However, present-day issues mingle with tales of Spain’s tortured past and Kenzie is not the only person facing difficult truths under a blistering Spanish sun. Under the wings of Esteban, the house cook, Kenzie glimpses what love means and learns where her heart wants her to be. This thoughtful and endearing story will enthral many readers, particularly those looking to read something emotionally substantial and well written.
Benjamin Scott

The Cuckoo’s Daughter
Written by Griselda Gifford
Country Books £6.99
ISBN: 978-1906789879
This historical novel is based on a true story set at the end of the eighteenth century, which gives rare insight into growing up in a farming family long before cars, central heating, mobile phones or any phones at all, when babies were delivered at home, there was no NHS and Forster’s Education Act was still seventy years away. Based on the author’s great-great grandmother, Louisa, born illegitimately, is reared by the Edsir family, and, although she loves them dearly, she knows, from an early age, that she is fostered, “Your mother was like the cuckoo, leaving you in a stranger’s nest” says the fairground gypsy who also warns, “You’ll be needing strength and courage to go with your love.”At sixteen, Louisa is no nearer to knowing the truth of her origin and can only guess, thanks to the expensive presents she is singled out to receive. But, if she’s not even to know the truth about her parents, why should she accept an arranged marriage? She must summon the courage of which the gypsy spoke, and she does! This story, well researched and credibly written, really is a rare treat.
Gill Roberts

Little White Lies
Written by Katie Dale
Simon & Schuster (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-0857071439
Lou’s cousin has been attacked and left in a coma. The publicity surrounding the assault, and her uncle’s imprisonment for the manslaughter of the boy believed to have attacked her cousin, has driven her to create a new identity. With her new name, a new life at university and a web of white lies she hopes to stop even her closest friends finding out the truth. When Lou meets the tall, dark, handsome Christian her determination to keep herself detached is seriously challenged. But it seems that Christian has his own secrets, and the reader is taken on a ride of twisting truths, identities and allegiances with many dangerous and sinister turns. Then Lou’s cousin dies, vigilantes begin looking for the other teenage boy thought to be involved in the assault and we realise that Christian’s secrets are serious indeed. Almost no-one in this thriller is who they seem, and, as the action becomes increasingly dramatic, we are lead closer and closer to the truth about what really happened to Lou’s cousin. This is a gripping read for older teenagers, full of conflicting loyalties, startling revelations and unexpected resolutions.
Stella Maden

Yellow Cake
Written by Margo Lanagan
David Fickling (R) (eB) £7.99
ISBN: 978-1849921114
Lanagan is a superb author of short stories who takes ownership of the English language and twists and turns it with inventiveness. Words are invented and repurposed to build a sense of authenticity in the many and varied worlds which she creates. These are imaginatively challenging tales. The reader can’t simply sit back and let the story wash over them, understanding requires active engagement. This is not to say that Lanagan’s prose is dense, far from it! Lanagan’s style is to catapult us straight into a world which we learn about gradually as we read on. The writing is often casual and conversational, but with a sense that every word has been meticulously chosen and placed. Settings range from a fresh retelling of the Rapunzel story to a childrens’ dare that affects a whole town. An illuminating postscript notes the inspiration behind each story. This book is suitable for older readers and those interested in the craft of writing.
Annalise Taylor

Half Bad
Written by Sally Green
Penguin (eB) £7.99
ISBN: 978-0141350868
From the very first page this book had me hooked. It is exciting, innovative, tense and completely unputdownable. Half Bad is the first novel from Sally Green but I can see it becoming a cult book amongst young adults, similar to The Twilight series. Nathan is a half witch – half black (bad) and half white (good). He needs to find his father, Mercury, a dangerous Black Witch, before his seventeenth birthday in order to ascertain his future. Nathan is illiterate but has amazing self-healing powers which prove to be very useful. He reacts to the phases of the moon and finds sleeping indoors traumatic. His symptoms are increasing as his seventeenth birthday draws nearer and his search for his father is relentless and beset by danger and trauma. Mercury is wanted by all the white Witches as he is a ruthless killer with amazing powers so Nathan’s movements are closely guarded. The last page is a cliff hanger so hopefully more will follow. Somehow, despite the whole fantasy angle, this book is credible and one not to be missed.
Ingrid Fox

Cruel Summer
Written by James Dawson
Indigo (eB) £8.99
ISBN: 978-1780621081
This thriller is set in a seaside villa in Spain, where a group of school friends have met up a year after leaving school. Things are overshadowed by the memory of Janey, a close friend, who died on the night of last year’s School Leavers’ Ball. Was it suicide, or was it murder? As the friends settle in, past memories and suspicions surface, eventually leading to another death. The holiday soon becomes a nightmare with several murders, a terrible and stark climax, and only a slight glimpse of a possible happier future for two of the friends. This is thrilling read, which takes us through a series of clever plot twists and turns to keep us guessing. The characterisation is very good as we really do believe in these people, which helps to sustain the suspense. The writing flows easily and confidently, and the dialogue is handled well. The whole story moves along at a good pace. A good page-turner!
Liz Dubber

The House of Scorpion
Written by Nancy Farmer
Simon & Schuster (R) (eB) £7.99
ISBN: 978-1471118319
Matt is the clone of 142 year old Matteo Alacron, Lord of a country called Opium, where he is a drug lord. Unlike other clones who are imbedded with a computer chip to make them “ejits”, Matt is highly intelligent and given private tutoring. However, many still treat him as an animal and during his life he encounters hatred and is mistreated. Although futuristic, this novel echoes some of the problems in the world today – slavery, human rights, drug use, immigration and crime. It is well-written, thought-provoking and an interesting concept.
Ingrid Fox

Forbidden Friends
Written by Anne-Marie Conway
Usborne (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-1409561903
Lizzie and Bee both have issues within their respective families. They meet on holiday and feel like they have always known each other and that they were meant to be best friends forever. But, there are dark secrets hidden in both families and the girls instinctively know it somehow links to their fathers’ disappearance. When their friendship is discovered and they are told they can’t see each other again, the girls are determined to find answers to their questions, to give each other strength and to make sure their friendship survives. This is a thoughtful, well-written novel, which captures the readers’ interest from the start. Narrated through the voices of Bee and Lizzie, the characters are well-drawn, family dynamics are realistically portrayed and the atmosphere emotionally charged. The plot is carefully constructed, balancing the darker threads of the secrets awaiting discovery with the love and warmth of the girls’ friendship. It’s a story of grief, love, loss and family tragedy but above all it’s a story of the power of friendship.
Annie Everall

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