Yo ho ho and a bottle of blood: thrilling books for boys

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Snakehead by Anthony Horowitz (Walker Books 12.99). Alex Rider, black belt in karate, fluent in three languages, teenage MI6 agent, has just fallen from space into the sea. The Australian Secret Service rescues him from his little ship, and takes him back to their base. After studying his files, they want him to work for them. Alex refuses and goes to a barbecue. But then he gets lost and steps on a bomb and is told later it was a test. He decides to work for them after all. Their aim: to stop Scorpia, a group of people who appeared in a previous book, who intend to destroy the Reef Conference celebrities wanting to make poverty history by making a tsunami engulf the island on which the conference is being held.

This is the seventh book in the Alex Rider series. Personally, I got bored after the third one, Skeleton Key, and Snakehead has the same basic plot line some guys want to blow up the world and Alex Rider stops them.

Kill Clock by Alan Guthrine (Barrington Stoke 5.99). Pearce has been arrested a number of times and his girlfriend, Julie, deserted him, taking a very expensive ring with her. Now she is back in his life and pleading for help. Banksy, a villain who lent money to her deceased boyfriend, wanted the money back but offered her another option. Julie had to kill someone in a time limit of 24 hours. But she didn't. And now Banksy is looking for her. She doesn't have 20 grand, and neither does Pearce. This book isn't really for small people. It has loads of swearing, but I liked it. The storyline is good, but at 130 pages the book could have been a bit longer.

Dead Brigade by James Lovegrove (Barrington Stoke 5.99). Sergeant Dex Hammond, traumatised after an incident where some Osama bin Laden types shot at his unit, still has nightmares of his friends dying around him. Six year later, the only other survivor of the attack visits him, introduces him to some reanimated dead people, and asks him to train them to fight.He accepts, calling them the Dead Brigade. Zombies and war put together the perfect combination. This is also about 130 pages, but I think this is one of the reasons it's so good.

Hurricane Gold by Charlie Higson (Puffin 12.99). There is an island in the middle of the Caribbean, where El Huracan and 13 other fugitive criminals live. One of them has tried to make contact with the outside world and now he must pay. He is killed that was probably the best bit in the book. The younger James Bond, meanwhile, is on a relaxing trip to Mexico, staying with his aunt's friend. Jack Stone is very rich. He has a huge house, two brats and some servants. Precious finds boys annoying, so James is left to play with JJ, the immature one. Jack has to fly James's aunt out to the jungle, so they are left on their own. There's a huge hurricane, robbers break in and James, Precious and JJ are forced to hide in the safety bunker. The robbers steal the contents of Jack Stone's safe and James, Precious and JJ set off to the jungle in pursuit.

I only read the first two books in this series. I think that Hurricane Gold isn't as good as the ones I have read. Don't read this at night, you may fall asleep quite easily.

Vampirates: Blood Captain by Justin Somper (Simon and Schuster 6.99). Vampires and pirates! An even better combination than zombies and war. Connor is part of a crew of pirates, but his twin sister Grace is part of a crew of Vampirates. Connor and his crew sail to Ma Kettle's, where the captain meets his brother. Connor meets the captain's nephew and immediately, they dislike each other. He joins the crew. Not good. This plot is completely original and you must read it if you like vampires or pirates. Or both. Or neither. Just read it. Even Anthony Horovitz said that he wished that he'd had this idea.

Felix Taylor (aged 15)

Sky pirates, lost treasures and spinach

The Lost Bark Scrolls by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (Doubleday 12.99) is the 10th book in the Edge Chronicles series and instead of being a single novel like the others, it has four smaller stories about the normal people in the Edge world going on adventures. One of my favourites is the first story, "Cloud Wolf", about a sky pirate called Quint who flies with his father Wind Jackal on his sky pirate ship. "The Blooding of Rufus Filatine" is the story of a young freeglade lancer who learns a terrible secret about the deepwoods. This book was really exciting and has lots of great illustrations and is one of the best Edge Chronicles books yet. It's 438 pages and the pace keeps up to the end.

In Heroes by Anne Perry (Barrington Stoke 5.99), Joseph Reavley is a chaplain in the support trenches in Ypres. It's his job to comfort the terrified and the dying and to carry stretchers. Many of his friends have been killed in No Man's Land by the enemy but one of the dead was killed by someone else, and Joseph wants to know who did it. This has a good plot and is very interesting, even though at 48 pages it's a bit on the thin side.

Like Heroes, Revenge by Eric Brown (Barrington Stoke 5.99) is in the Most Wanted series there are some more, but I wasn't allowed to review all of them. This one is about a professional footballer called Dan Radford who plays in the Premiership for Manchester City, has a drink problem and thinks that reporters are scum of the earth. Is this based on anyone real, I wonder? One day when he gets home from training he finds a burglar in his house. Dan manages to lock the burglar in his cellar, but he escapes and wants revenge. This is a great book with loads of action and suspense. My favourite part is the ending, which is very violent.

Next, a rather odd mystery from the author of the similar-sounding Chasing Vermeer, The Wright Three by Blue Balliett, illus Brett Helquist (Chicken House 5.99), about three children Petra, Calder and Tommy who start a protest to save the century-old Robie house, designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, from being demolished. It all gets very dangerous, with lost treasures and a secret message from Wright himself, which they have to decode. It's pretty weird the house seems to be alive but an OK read with some very good illustrations.

Finally, Philip Ardagh's Book of Absolutely Useless Lists for Absolutely Every Day of the Year (Macmillan 7.99). The lists range from tongue-twisters to famous monsters. I particularly liked "Popular souvenirs for sale in Irish airports" and "Famous food named after famous folk". I looked up the list for my birthday and found "Some not so eye-popping facts about Popeye". Apparently spinach sales increased by a third at the height of his popularity! This is quite funny, but you can't read a year's worth all at once.

Benjy Taylor (aged 11)

If you see a monster, make friends

In Sensible Hare and the Case of Carrots by Daren King (Faber 9.99) the main character, who is a hare called Sensible, turns out not to be very sensible at all. He runs a detective agency, where his job is to help his client Mazy Rabbit find a suitcase full of carrots stolen from an airport baggage carousel. A gang of bad guys led by Uncle Carbuncle are also on the case and after it! I liked this book first because it's about crime, which is always interesting, even if it's about rabbits, and second for the scene in which Sensible and Ottoman creep up on the villains through an underground passage.

Spy Dog Unleashed by Andrew Cope (Puffin 4.99) is the third in a series of books about a dog called Lara. A bit like Sensible Hare, her job is to solve crimes, but the bad-guys tend not to be carrot thieves but drug barons. Lara is on holiday in the Peak District when Mr Big and his gang of villains dig a hole out of prison, find a criminal dog who looks like Lara and have her sent to jail. But with the help of some children, Lara manages to stop Mr Big, disguised as Sir Humphrey Goldfinger, from stealing an enormous diamond. This was very exciting it reminded me of the Grk books by Joshua Doder and I like the idea of a dog who is a spy.

I couldn't wait to read Horror Stories, re-written by Jill Taberner (Mercury Junior 9.99). One good feature is a built-in night light that fits into a space at the top of the pages, which means you can read it under the bedclothes. There are two long stories "Dracula" and "Frankenstein's Monster". I liked Dracula better, but I felt sorry for Frankenstein's Monster because he was really ugly and everyone kept running away from him. Frankenstein wouldn't be his friend and he got very lonely. This is described as a book for the fearless, and I must be quite fearless as I wasn't too frightened.

The Boy in the Biscuit Tin by Heather Dyer (Chicken House 4.99) is about two brothers called Francis and Alex and their cousin Ibby. Francis finds a magic set in a forbidden attic and he performs a trick that makes himself turn into the size of a mouse. When Ibby and Alex find him they hide him in a biscuit tin to keep him safe until he grows back to his normal size. This and Alex's other adventures in magic are very funny and also very weird, because these things don't actually happen to people.

Finally, Elephants (Thames & Hudson 9.99) is a book of photographs of elephants by Steve Bloom with words by David Henry Wilson. There are some great pictures of people in India riding on elephants to play polo and taking their goods to market. Elephants are also good at swimming, and I liked the photo of a man climbing up an elephant's tusks to walk on his back. This is a very interesting book, and now someone should do one about my favourite animal, the monkey.

Leo Taylor (aged 7)

Comments