Since we published our list of Top 10 Dystopian novels (see it here), the publishing world has gone a bit barmy for them, the result being heaps and heaps more to choose from. So, it might be time for another list! Here’s the 10 dystopian novels (and series) I have enjoyed the most since (or more accurately, found the most gripping).
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (387 pages) -Le Cirque des Rêves is the name of the circus, and it is indeed only open at night. At night, in the circus, Celia and Marco are two young magicians who must compete against each other to be the best. They don’t know that the game they are bound to play is very real, with implications for the whole circus. When the two fall in love, what then happens to the competition?
Is possibly a bit like maybe: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor; The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M Valente.
First sentence: The circus arrives without warning.
Is possibly a bit like maybe: The Iron Thorn, Caitlin Kittredge; The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson; Corsets & Clockwork: 13 steampunk romances
First sentence: The moment she saw the young man walking down the darkened hall toward her, twirling his walking stick, Finley Jayne knew she’d be unemployed before the sun rose.
Black Heart, Holly Black (296 pages) – the third book in the Curse Workers trilogy. Will there be another? “Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy. But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet… this time on love.” (catalogue description)
Is possibly a bit like maybe: The Calling, Kelley Armstrong; City of Bones, Cassandra Clare
First sentence: My brother Barron sits next to me, sucking the last dregs of milk tea slush noisily through a wide yellow straw.
The Way We Fall, Megan Crewe (309 pages) – a strange virus attacks a small island community, killing many. Those that remain must fight for food, or starve. Grim! Kaelyn is one of the survivors, and she must join forces with a former rival to better her odds, while those around her she cares for slowly get sick. Can she find a way to save them?
Is possibly a bit like maybe: After the Snow, S D Crockett; Under the Never Sky, Veronica Rossi; Life as We Knew It, Susan Beth Pfeffer
First sentence: Leo, it’s about six hours since you left the island.
The Butterfly Clues, Kate Ellison (325 pages) – “Having experienced compulsive behavior all her life, Lo’s symptoms are getting her into trouble when she witnesses a murder while wandering dangerous quarters of Cleveland, Ohio, collecting things that do not belong to her, obsessing about her brother’s death.” Thank you catalogue! Sounds interesting.
First sentence: I spot her out of the corner of my eye and freeze.
Getting Over Garrett Delaney, Abby McDonald (319 pages) – Garrett Delaney is Sadie’s best friend. She’s awesomely in love with him, which is a bit of a shame. Especially when he rings from a summer literary retreat to say he’s fallen in love. Sadie must – as the title says – get over Garrett Delaney. A summer of reinventing herself is in order! Can she do it? Yes she can! (Maybe – read the book to find out!)
First sentence: You have to understand: I’ve been madly, hopelessly, tragically in love with Garrett Delaney for two years now – ever since the fateful day when I looked up from my list of the Top Ten Couples of All Time and saw him sauntering into the local coffeehouse.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson (423 pages) – “A fearful sixteen-year-old princess discovers her heroic destiny after being married off to the king of a neighboring country in turmoil and pursued by enemies seething with dark magic” says the catalogue. Elisa (the fearful, sixteen-year-old princess) has a lot on her plate! A good book for Tamora Pierce, or Sharon Shinn fans, maybe?
First sentence: Prayer candles flicker in my bedroom.
Perception, Kim Harrington (275 pages) – Clare (Clarity) is the school psychic, and when someone starts sending her mysterious messages and gifts she’s put on high alert. Who could they be from? Things take a dark turn when the messages become increasingly sinister, and a girl suddenly disappears.
First sentence(s): I stepped forward with forced confidence. “Let’s do this.”
The writer of the enormously popular Inheritance books is going to be in town on Thursday June the 28th!
Tickets for the event will cost $5.00 (bargain!) and will be sold through the Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie, but you can register your interest now if you’re keen: just email them – you can find their contact details and more information on their website right here.
Also, if you haven’t yet read Inheritance (the final book in the series) and you’ve been waiting for the reserve queue at the library to calm down, now’s your chance!
Mr Paolini is also tweeting about his book touring adventures, and other interesting stuff.
Something random for the weekend.
Skybreaker, Kenneth Oppel
Behemoth, Scott Westerfeld
Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars, Nick James. This one is new! “In 2095 when a fifteen-year-old slacker discovers that he has the power to control Pearls, fragments of space debris that are a dying Earth’s most important energy source, government forces work to capture him.” (catalogue summary) The second in the series, Crimson Rising, is due out this September.
This week’s selection! Quite a serious bunch, this one.
Ripper, Stefan Petrucha (426 pages) – “Adopted by famous Pinkerton Agency Detective Hawking in 1895 New York, fourteen-year-old Carver Young hopes to find his birth father, but when he becomes involved in the pursuit of notorious killer Jack the Ripper, Carver discovers that finding the truth can be worse than ignorance” (catalogue summary). Creepy! We all love Jack the Ripper stories of course.
First sentences: “Let me show you a secret.” Elizabeth B. Rowley liked the man’s confidence.
Take a Bow, Elizabeth Eulberg (280 pages) – set at a performing arts school (remember my name! fame!). Emme, Sophie, Carter and Ethan are all performers, with varying backgrounds and concerns in their senior year, but they all feel the pressure to perform well in the senior recital, to cement their future careers.
First sentence: My life has been one big audition.
Wanderlove, Kirsten Hubbard (338 pages) – Bria yearns to wander the world, travelling to exotic places. To take the first step, she signs up for a Central American tour, only to discover it’s a tour for oldies (with matching leisure suits, etc.). Luckily she’s rescued from tour hell when she meets Rowan and Starling, an adventurous brother and sister, who promise more interesting travels off the beaten track. A novel about backpacking and finding yourself in the rainforests of Belize.
First sentence: As soon as I see the blond girl bouncing down the aisle, I know she’s heading for the empty seat beside me.
Fever, Lauren DeStefano (341 pages) – book two in the Chemical Garden trilogy. “In a future where genetic engineering has cured humanity of all diseases and defects but has also produced a virus that kills all females by age twenty and all males by the age twenty-five, teenaged Rhine escapes her forced marriage and journeys back to New York to find her twin brother.” (catalogue description) It sounds like a grim future indeed!
First sentence: We run, with water in our shoes and the smell of the ocean clinging to our skin.
Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy, Bil Wright (219 pages) – for a less alarming change of pace! Carlos Duarte has a flair for makeup, and it’s his dream to become a celebrity makeup artist. When he gets a part time job at Macy’s it seems like his career is on the right trajectory, but the makeup world is a cutthroat world: can he make it to the top?
First sentence: When I was twelve, I convinced my mother to let me do her makeup for Parents’ Night.
After the Snow, S D Crockett (288 pages) – another dystopian world, this time it’s a cold one! Willo’s life is as settled as it can be, with his family living in the wilderness, and him a successful hunter. When one day he comes back from a hunting trip to find his family gone, Willo packs up and heads for the mountains, planning on finding a way of getting them back. Things become (more) complicated, however, when he finds a staring girl and boy.
First sentence: I’m gonna sit here in my place on the hill behind the house.
Boy 21, Matthew Quick (250 pages) – Basketball is the winner in this book about life in a really tough neighbourhood. Finley has jersey number 21, and basketball is the one really good thing in his hard life. Russ has just moved into town following a tragedy, and refuses to play basketball, although he is known only as Boy21, after his former jersey number. “A moving novel about hope, recovery, and redemption” (cover).
First sentence: Sometimes I pretend that shooting hoops in my backyard is my earliest memory.
Drowning Instinct, Lisa J Bick (346 pages) – a serious one here, again. Jenna is sixteen, and troubled. Her family life is a shocker, then her older brother – who she looks up to – leaves for Iraq. She finds support in a relationship with an older man – a teacher, in fact. Which could make everything so much worse.
First sentence(s): “Look,” says the detective. He stares down at the girl huddled on the gurney.
The Poisoned House, Michael Ford (319 pages) – goodie! We do love ghost stories. This one looks rather spooky, too. Abi is a scullery maid in 19th century London. There’s something “otherwordly” in the house where she works, though, and Abi – I think – may find herself uncovering its deadly secret.
First sentence: The stone steps to the basement were ice cold under my bare feet.
Desert Angel, Charlie Price (233 pages) – Angel lives in a trailer in the California desert with her mother and her mother’s loser boyfriend, Scotty. One morning she wakes to discover her mother murdered and the boyfriend vanished. Fearing for her life – the boyfriend has excellent tracking skills – Angel escapes into the unforgiving desert, where she discovers a community of people who will help her. But Scotty is always just a few steps behind. Golly.
First sentence: The fight started after midnight, Scotty drunk, Angel’s mother shrill on crystal.
The Beginning of After, Jennifer Castle (425 pages) – Laurel’s family is killed in a horrific car accident, caused by her neighbour, who survived, but is in a coma. Laurel must adjust to life on her own, where it’s hard to tell if her relationships are built on pity or are genuine, and where she has a problematic attraction with the son of her neighbour.
First sentence: Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: it’s all about Before and After.
Dead to You, Lisa McMann (243 pages) – from the author of the Wake trilogy. Ethan was abducted when he was seven. Now, nine years later, he has been returned to his family. This should be fantastic! But, inevitably, there’s friction in the family, and some terrible things that Ethan can’t remember.
First sentence(s): There are three of them. No, four.
Grave Mercy, Robin LaFevers (549 pages) – the girl on the cover is wearing a killer red dress and carrying a crossbow. She’s Ismae, and she’s sought refuge in the convent of St Mortain, only to discover that the god of Death has blessed her with certain gifts. She is to be the handmaiden of Death, an assassin. Her first assignment finds her in the court of Brittany. Her target is Gavriel Duval. Seems simple enough, except she’s not prepared for the intrigues at court, or the intrigues of Gavriel Duval.
First sentence: I bear a deep red stain that runs from my left shoulder down to my right hip, a trail left by the herbwitch’s poison that my mother used to try to expel me from her womb.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Emily M Danforth (470 pages) – Cameron Post’s parents die in a car crash (another car crash!), right around the time that Cam is discovering that she is attracted to girls. Moving to Miles City, Montana, to live with her conservative aunt and grandmother, means she will have to appear to tow the line. When Cam meets Coley and they hit it off and begin a close friendship, Cam’s aunt decides to try and “fix” Cam, but can you deny who you really are?
First sentence: The afternoon my parents died I was out shop-lifting with Irene Klauson.
Last year – in June, in fact! – it was announced that Pottermore was, well, something, but we weren’t sure what. Then special people got to play while they were beta testing. Now everyone can! You can sign up to enjoy Pottermore: a unique online Harry Potter experience from J K Rowling. Here’s a sneak peek:
Just a couple of quick reminders this week!
Firstly, don’t forget the Massive Vintage Bazaar happening in Newtown on Friday (hence this week’s early FF) and Saturday at St Anne’s Hall. (Especially if you’re after some snazzy outfits for you and your pals like the ones pictured above).
Also, we are currently in the middle of Wellington Fashion Week. Make sure to check out all the fashionista action.
This week: historical romance, science fiction, and epic fantasy.
Changeling, Philippa Gregory. “Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days. Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape. Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.” (amazon.com)
This is the first of a series by one of the queens of historical fiction!
Burnt Ice, Steve Wheeler (New Zealand). The first book in the A Fury of Aces series. A space adventure! “In our future worlds the Administration rules the Sphere of Humankind, the Games Board sanctions and funds wars and conflicts, and the Haulers′ Collective roams the space routes like the caravanners of old. Marko and his crew of fellow soldier-engineers are sent to investigate an unknown planet. When they encounter strange artefacts and an intelligent but aggressive squid species, they are forced to embark on a perilous journey far from the Sphere. They will have to survive not only other alien encounters but also their own Administration′s deadly manipulations. Political factions and galactic media moguls vie for power … and money.” (Text from HarperCollins)
Do you belong to a book club, or are you thinking about it? If you do, or are, there are plenty of ideas and resources on the world wide web to help you pick excellent books to discuss.
Here are some things to think about when choosing books:
For book ideas:
For discussion ideas:
You should be able to find discussion questions for a lot of books on the world wide web. Some publishers have study questions on their websites (for example, The 10pm Question by Kate de Goldi, or The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner), some books come with discussion questions at the back (like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). A list of questions is a good idea, in case your discussion hits a flat patch, or someone gets sidetracked.
The New Zealand book council has got a page devoted to reading groups, including a guide on how to get one started. There’s also a list of discussion guides (including the always-present Book Thief).
What a dapper young man. He’s modelling lovely new men’s gear in the Zara lookbook for Winter 2011.
Wouldn’t you want to hang out with him? It’d be like having your own Chuck Bass! (Does anyone still watch Gossip Girl?!)
Zara is a massive high street chain from Spain. It’s hugely popular in Europe and America, but unfortunately the closest store to us is in Sydney. They make some lovely, affordable clothes though so it’s worth a visit if you get a chance.