The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.
Abandoning their own when an operation turns bad is what the CIA is known for. So sayeth one of the characters in this book, but is it the whole truth.
Seventeen year old Gwendolyn is an ordinary American girl. She is told by her father that he works for the Government and as a result they have lived in many countries especially Russia and Italy making her adept at several languages.
When her father goes missing in France on what he said was a routine operation, Gwendolyn’s life changes. The CIA call round asking questions. A neighbour upstairs tells Gwendolyn that all is not as it seems and gives her a book that her father said was for her eyes only. What she discovers takes her to Paris and the company of a taut bodied former Mossad agent, Yael ,who describes her job as 90% waiting around and 10% terror.
Gwendolyn toughens up under Yael’s guidance and after a gun battle Gwendolyn takes off for Berlin and later Prague. She assumes the identity of a 22 year old Russian stripper called Sofia and becomes involved with a gun running, drug dealing, young girl smuggling multi millionaire Bohden Kladivo. He tells her “a woman who seeks to rise in the World must be crueler than men”. As the plot evolves Gwendolyn/Sofia finds the cruelty rising within her.
An excellent action/thriller/spy story that makes for tense reading. One of the best of this type of novel that I have read and the good news is the story is not over. There must be a sequel. The plot is tight and believable and the style is clever, menacing and witty – “trains creep slowly along the tracks like snakes in a moat”
Teens and Young Adults will love it.
Spy Toys by Mark Powers, illus. Tim Weeson. Pub. Bim UK imprint Allen&Unwin, 2017
I am very impressed with this new series that is designed for reluctant readers both boys and girls of primary/intermediate age.
In a phrase it is like the cartoon network without the cartoons. Bizarre, witty with a tight and sharp dialogue exchange between the highly imaginative characters.
The plot and characters revolve around rejected and defective high tech toys from the Snaztacular Ultrafun toy factory. Dan is a cuddly bear who is so strong he can crush a tractor with his cuddles, Arabella, a rag doll with an attitude to burn and sympathy for no-one and Flax a highly aggressive rabbit with a down beat wit.
The toys are all discarded because they are defective but escape into the World and are captured then hired by Auntie Roz from the Department of Secret Affairs to bodyguard the Prime Ministers son from Rusty Flumptrunk a very bad half Elephant half human nasty.
Brilliant stuff with Tim Weeson’s animation filling in the gaps.
I was spellbound and read the short book in one sitting with a smile all over my face. It is great.The first chapter about Dan is called If Hugs Could kill and it sets the tone of the book immediately. Big font makes reading easy.
If you want your reluctant readers particularly boys to read, these are a great start.
Johnny Danger Bk 3. Spyborg by Peter Millett. Pub. Puffin Books, 2016.
Yes book three is out at last and it is full of the same intelligent silliness that made the other two books so popular. Perennial villain Dr Disastrous is joined by new villain Yuri Boom-Boom-ovic who has invented a cyborg that can be replicated to look and act like anybody.
The two villains retreat to Happy World island formerly known as Ikki Ikki Bunga, Dr Disastrous’s hideaway, and plot to get Johnny Danger and conquer the World at the same time. Mwahahaha.
Not only that Johnny Dangers older brother Evil Ian has gone to the darkside and Penelope Pounds and Johnny’s father are acting very strangely, could they be one of Boo Boom’s new cyborgs or Yuri-nators as he calls them?
Read this action packed spoof on James Bond and have fun. Lots of action and toilet humour, there is even a lego car. Adults will love it too as Peter Millett spoofs film classics Dirty Harry, the Terminator and others.
The best compliment I can give this novel is to tell you I read it in one sitting. It made me smile on a miserable day. It will do that to you too.
For middle school and older students who have furtive imaginations. All the Johnny Danger books are at this link
I am a big fan of these books as they combine a poo bum wees sense of humour with action and inventiveness. They are silly but not silly at the same time. Reluctant readers will grab them and read them easily particularly boys but not exclusively.
Reluctant boy spy John Dangerfield with his strong willed female off-sider Penelope Pounds are drawn into another crisis by M16 when the President of USA is trying to land on the Moon. During his “One giant leap” speech he drops a horse and cart of considerable velocity, and floats into space. If it was Donald Trump I would be cheering.
Well there is an aging villain behind it all and he is in the Shady tree Retirement Home and his name is Major Pain and he is a grumpy old codger. My hero and probable fate.
well Major Pain has invented an undetectable weapon of mass destruction and it involves gas of which methane is a major component. The World is held to ransom. Can Johnny Danger and Penelope Pounds stop him before it is too late. Read it and find out.
Loved the character of Major Pain because he is old school. No online wizardry from him he is a stamp and letter man and this is why he goes undetected. Johnny Danger’s old enemy Dr Disastrous is on hand seeking to become top dog again after a spell in jail, with his ever reliable number 2s, 2A and 2B.
It’s all fun for primary and intermediate kids and there is a code to work out.
Milena ws born in the country of Olissa on the borders of Soviet Union, Turkey and Iran. When she was 7 years old she was taken from her family for a purpose and put under the wing of the cruel and ruthless Mistress at a spy organisation known as Perun.
At age 11 she underwent cosmetic surgery to look like Alexandra Gastone the person whose life she was going to assume, after years of training to become her. She made friends with Varos a boy 7 years older than her and who was to become her Handler in America.
At age 18 years and a high school student in America with a boy friend who she keeps “close yet far”, living with an adoring grandfather, Albert, who loves her dearly, she is called to do the sleeper role she was assigned to do for Olissa and the Perun.
This is an excellent spy book that would make a great movie. T.A. Maclagan keeps the intrigue going till the last page with more twists and turns than a politician’s speech. Superbly constructed story in a high stakes game.
The heart of the story is based around the theme of being who you are. Milena cannot be herself and she cannot be Alexandra either. Her aspirations and manners are always fake. Detection is unthinkable. But does she really know what is going on and who can she trust? Who knows what is really going on? Is she a spy? A granddaughter? A girlfriend? A liar? A traitor? Read it and find out. There is a bit of romance in there as well and it is hot stuff.
In 25 years of reading Y.A. novels I have never read a spy novel. This is as good as Le Carre. If you miss this you will kick yourself.
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. Pub. Yext Publishing, 2012.
When Georges’ parents fall on hard times they sell their house and move into a Brooklyn apartment. The new apartment is nothing like his old house but it has a painting by Seurat on the wall and this gives george some comfort. What georges really wants is a friend and this can be a dickie business.
Georges finds a 12 year old boy called Safer who sees intrigue around every corner and is particularly interested in a man he calls Mr X who he suspects of all sorts of goings on. Georges becomes inveigled into Safer’s world and his family and all sorts of spy shenanigans go on.
But Georges is being led a merry dance, read this novel and find out why.
Beautifully written with a superb array of characters.
For middle school and intermediate students but if you like good literature it will appael to everybody.
The Ring of Five by Eoin McNamee. Pub. Quercus, 2010.
Danny is a strange looking boy with one blue eye one brown eye, a triangular face and pointed ears and chin. He is bullied at school and ignored by his parents and he doesn’t know it, but he looks like a Cherb, the enemy of the world that he is about to enter.
His parents decide to send him to boarding school but instead he is picked up by a strange taxi driver and crosses over into a world that is an island between warring factions. A war in which evil forces led by the Ring of Five, threaten the forces of good.
Danny is sent to Wilson’s school for spies and he finds out that it is a school for which his talents are well suited, he just needs specialised training and experience. At Wilsons he meets friends Dixie, Vandra and Les who have special skills of their own, and is supported by a powerful headmaster, Brunholm, and others.
Danny doesn’t realise that because of his appearance he has a special role to play as a spy who must infiltrate the Ring of Five and stop them and their evil ways. He doesn’t do it all in this book because it is the first part of a trilogy, the next part The Navigator will be out later this year.
Eoin McNamee knows his fantasy and the experieced reader will see parallels with other fantasy series but there is nothing wrong with that. Harry Potter fans will like this book although the evil forces are not as forbidding is in the latter series. Evil does have its victories but you never feel that good is going to lose.
Suitable for fantasy readers from years 5/6 and 7/8 even junior High school. Get out and read it and watch out for the sequels.