Unboxed, Non Pratt
Unboxed is about four teenagers who come together after several months apart. In previous years, they had put together a time capsule about their best summer with a friend who was dying. Now that their friend has passed, they reunite to open the box.(Goodreads)
First lines: It seems worse to break a promise to the dead than it does to break one made to the living. Why else would I be standing by the gates of my old school waiting for a bunch of strangers I used to call friends? Ben, Dean, Millie, Zara. Me-Alix. Five friends, five years…it feels like a lifetime.
Our chemical hearts, Krystal Sutherland
Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change. Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love. (Goodreads)
First lines: I always thought the moment you met the great love of your life would be more like the movies. Not exactly like the movies, obviously, with the slow-mo and the hair blwoing in the breeze and the swelling instrumental soundtrack. But I at least thought there would be something, you know?
Foulsham, Edward Carey
Foulsham, London’s great filth repository, is bursting at the seams. The walls that keep the muck in are buckling, rubbish is spilling over the top, back into the city that it came from. In the Iremonger family offices, Grandfather Umbitt Iremonger broods: in his misery and fury at the people of London, he has found a way of making everyday objects assume human shape, and the real people into objects. Abandoned in the depths of the Heaps, Lucy Pennant has been rescued by a terrifying creature, Binadit Iremonger, more animal than human. She is desperate and determined to find Clod. But unbeknownst to her, Clod has become a golden sovereign and ‘lost’. He is being passed as currency from hand to hand all around Foulsham, and yet everywhere people are searching for him, desperate to get hold of this dangerous Iremonger, who, it is believed, has the power to bring the mighty Umbitt down. But all around the city, things, everyday things, are twitching into life… (Goodreads)
First lines: They told me I was the only child in the whole great building, but I wasn’t. I knew I wasn’t. I heard them sometimes, the other children. I heard them calling out somewhere down below.
The secret diary of Lydia Bennet, Natasha Farrant
Lydia is the youngest of the five Bennet girls. She’s stubborn, never listens, and can’t seem to keep her mouth shut–not that she would want to anyway. She’s bored with her country life and wishes her older sisters would pay her attention . . . for once! Luckily, the handsome Wickham arrives at Longbourn to sweep her off her feet. Lydia’s not going to let him know THAT, of course, especially since he only seems to be interested in friendship. But when they both decide to summer in the fasionable seaside town of Brighton, their paths become entangled again. At the seaside, Lydia also finds exciting new ways of life and a pair of friends who offer her a future she never dreamed of. Lydia finally understands what she really wants. But can she get it? (Goodreads)
First lines: I am fifteen years old today, and this journal was a present from Mary. She says I must write in it every day to improve my mind.
“Whatever for,” Mamma cried, “when she is so pretty?”
Father asked, “Are we even certain Lydia has a mind?”
The diabolic, S.J Kincaid
A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.
Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe. When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire. (Goodreads)
First lines: Everyone believed Diabolics were fearless, but in my earliest years, all I knew was fear. It preyed on me the very morning the Impryreans viewed me in the corrals. I couldn’t speak, but I understood most words I heard.
Girl in the shadows, Gwenda Bond
Eighteen-year-old Moira Mitchell grew up in the shadows of Vegas’s stage lights while her father’s career as a magician soared. More than anything, Moira wants to be a magician too, but her father is dead set against her pursuing magic. When an invitation to join the Cirque American mistakenly falls into Moira’s possession, she takes action. Instead of giving the highly coveted invitation to its intended recipient, Raleigh, her father’s handsome and worldly former apprentice, Moira takes off to join the Cirque. If she can perform alongside its world-famous acts, she knows she’ll be able to convince her dad that magic is her future. But when Moira arrives, things take on an intensity she can’t control as her stage magic suddenly feels like…real magic. To further distract her, Raleigh shows up none too pleased at Moira’s presence, all while the Cirque’s cocky and intriguing knife thrower, Dez, seems to have it out for her. As tensions mount and Moira’s abilities come into question, she must decide what’s real and what’s an illusion. If she doesn’t sort it out in time, she may forever remain a girl in the shadows. (Goodreads)
First lines: I was waiting in the winds backstage at the Menagerie Hotel and Casino, preparing the equipment for my first stage illusion. Straightjackeet, check. Oversized timer and mood-music speakers, check. And most important, transparent coffin, check.
Did you know that we have a secret area of the library known as the stacks? It’s where we keep:
*Items that are still in demand which are in a deteriorating condition and cannot be replaced.
*Out of print items of special interest.
*Classic titles or titles by classic authors in a deteriorating condition of which replacement editions cannot be readily sourced.
*Valuable editions of titles.
*Copies of fiction titles written by major ‘Prize’ winning authors.
(From our Collection development policy)
It’s a treasure trove of awesome books which really need a bit more love. You can get these books by reserving them or going up to the second floor and asking at the desk. Here are a few of my favourites. There’s a fair amount in the stack, so I may make this a regular feature.
Watermark, Penelope Todd
In a month or so we’ll be hitting a record breaking summer. Or at least, we hope so! This is an incredible novel about a summer that’s as wonderful and strange as any you could ever live. Zillah, an eighteen year old who’s having doubts about the future that her life so far have been building to – something has to break. So she heads off, away from safety, to a place suggested by a mysterious letter. There she meets an enigmatic brother and sister. Events take a turn for the dangerous as both the natural world and the people around her move in their own mysterious patterns. There are two sequels; Dark and Zillah.
Montmorency, Eleanor Updale
A young thief gets a second chance – of sorts – when a doctor decides that rather than consign the unammed man to death, he’ll try a series of experiments to rebuild his shattered body. The man that results from this is named Mortmorency. Mortmorency is clever and quick and tries to engineer his escape, but there are parts of his life that he can’t quite leave behind. Mortmorency’s set in Victorian London, so a literal world away from Watermark.
The sea-wreck stranger, Anna Mackenzie
Ness is a young woman struggles against the inflexible traditions of her island society. She has the sea in her blood, or so she says, in a place that hates and fears the sea. A stranger washes up with the tide, and suddenly her future becomes even more uncertain and dangerous than she could have imagined. The world that MacKenzie has written is completely fictitious yet familiar and realistic. It’s one of the best novels I’ve read in a while – which makes me happy to have looked in the stacks in the first place!
Spider Mansion, Caroline MacDonald
I wasn’t prepared for how creepy I’d find this novel. It’s a simple enough premise: the Day family run a business out of their home, a beautiful historic home. The Todd family come to stay…and don’t leave. The Todds exert a strange hold over the Days, and tensions escalate and events spiral out of control.
I enjoy settling in with a long novel as much as the next horror fan, but sometimes I like short stories: they’re like the jump scares of scary books. Here are some great collections.
Extremities: stories of death, murder, and revenge, David Lubar
David Lubar’s better known as a writer for younger readers but this definitely belongs in the YA section. Despite the title, some of these stories have a sly, dark humour – but that doesn’t make them any less disturbing.
Scary stories, illustrated by Barry Moser with an introduction by Peter Glassman
This is a collection of “classic” horror stories – Roald Dahl, H.P Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and our very own Margaret Mahy have stories in here and it’s a good introduction to the other -but perhaps less well known to YA audiences- horror writers such as Saki and Ambrose Bierce. If you’re wanting more names to help broaden your reading. The illustrations are simple black and white – but are creepy as anything.
Slasher girls and monster boys, stories selected by April Genevieve Tucholke
There are some impressive names from YA literature in this collection; Marie Lu and Carrie Ryan to name just two. A more contemporary take on horror themed short stories, I have no doubt these will keep you up past bedtime…
Black Juice, Margo Lanagan
Margo Lanagan’s short stories aren’t scary in the conventional sense; there may be things that go bump in the night but more often than not they depict a muted, interior sense of unease that will persist long after you put the book down. Horror doesn’t always come the paranormal – often it’s humanity that shapes a hostile world. Lanagan also has three more short story collections availible; White time, Red Spikes and Yellowcake.
We’ve got a lot books about witches – usually not about the terrible things that green skinned old ladies do when they cackle over cauldrons (although I’m not excluding them) – but about accusations of witchcraft, noble witches and many more besides.
Witch child, Celia Rees
This is not only one of my favourite books about witches, it’s one of my favourite novels full stop. Mary Newbury is a young woman who sees her grandmother executed for witchcraft; seeking safety, she flees to America with the first wave of Puritans. Unfortunately, she finds that suspicion and superstition are as rife in the New World as they were back home. It’s told in diary format. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave it to you to read the book: it’s beautifully written, tense and intelligent. It has a raft of awards, but surely a librarian’s recommendation is all the convincing you need.
The raging quiet, Sherryl Jordan
A book from a New Zealand author – and a fantastic one at that. Marnie is married off to support her family; unfortunately her husband’s death, a vicious community and her friendship with a man believed to be the local “idiot” result in an accusation of witchcraft. Again, a tense and intelligent novel about the dangers of superstition and fear – but also a tender and unsentimental novel about finding love and happiness in a climate of fear.
Sea hearts, Margo Lanagan
I’ve long been a fan of Margo Lanagan – her short story collections Black Juice, Yellowcakes and Red Spikes are probably some of the best we have in the library. So I was pretty excited to find out that she also writes novels. Tender Morsels is amazing, but I’d suggest that Sea Hearts is the one you really want to pick up – well, if you’re looking for books on witches, anyway. Misskaella is a witch (a real one) who has the power to make women from the seals that surround their remote island. Based on the selkie myth, this is a powerful novel about love, magic and consequences.
Tripswitch, Gaelyn Gordon
Three orphaned cousins go to live with their sinister aunt and then discover that things (of course) are definitely not as they seem. It’s nice to find a book about a witch in a more modern context – but the fear and horror generated by Aunt Lureene doesn’t lose anything by being removed from a historical setting. I’m always excited to find books by New Zealand authors. Gaelyn Gordon was an excellent writer (she sadly passed away in 1998) and her books deserve to be better known among the new generations of readers.
Akata witch, Nnedi Okorafor
Another modern witch story! Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning novelist – so I was pretty excited to find this book in our collection! I hadn’t read it before this post, and I’m cursing (hah) myself now: it’s not only a great book that focusses on Nigerian witchcraft. It’s a breath of fresh air, and the heroine, Sunny, is fantastic. She not only has to deal with her burgeoning powers but the difficulties that come with Albinism in Nigeria. This book has won one award and been selected for two more, for good reason. If you only read one book on this list, make it this one.
Baba Yaga’s assistant, Marika McCoola ; illustrated by Emily Carroll.
Baba Yaga’s my favourite witch and Emily Carroll’s my favourite comic book artist so this graphic novel appearing in the new books section was a great surprise. Baba Yaga’s house on chicken feet is pretty iconic but not many people can name a fairy tale with her in it. And this is another modern story about witches! Masha must undergo a series of tests to make sure she survives the witch and her sinister house.Luckily she’s heard a lot of the stories before, which helps her in her battle with the witch. But Baba Yaga has other plans for Masha, too…
Long dark dusk, JP Smythe
The moment she learned the horrible truth about her life on Australia, the derelict ship overrun with violent gangs, Chan Aitch made it her mission to save everyone she could from their fate worse than death. But her efforts were in vain. Now, everyone she cares about is dead or in prison, and Chan is more alone than ever before. As the only person to have escaped Australia’s terrible crash-landing back to Earth, Chan is now living in poverty on the fringes of a huge city. She believes Mae, the little girl she once rescued on the Australia, is still alive – but she has no idea where Mae is, or how to find her. Everything on Earth is strange and new, and Chan has never felt more lost. But she’ll do whatever it takes to find Mae, even if it means going to prison herself. She’s broken out of prison before. How hard could it be to do it again? (Goodreads)
First lines: She says that her name is Alala, but I’m not sure if I believe her. She says that it has a meaning, that in the language her ancestors spoke it would carry some weight, but she doesn’t know what it is now. Nobody remembers. It’s a word that has been lost, from a language that went under the sea.
What I couldn’t tell you, Faye Bird
When love turns to jealousy, when jealousy turns to rage, when rage turns to destruction…Laura was head over heels in love with Joe. But now Laura lies in a coma and Joe has gone missing. Was he the one who attacked her? Laura’s sister Tessie is selectively mute. She can’t talk but she can listen. And as people tell her their secrets, she thinks she’s getting close to understanding what happened on that fateful night. (Goodreads)
“I love you.”
She said it.
She just said it.
She’d been waiting to say it, and there it was.
The fail safe, Jack Heath
Everyone seems to know who Fero is – except Fero. Is he a ruthless boy soldier from Besmar, or an innocent teen recruit from Kamau? He’s running out of time to decide. If he doesn’t help a renegade spy steal a politician’s briefcase, his two countries could end up in a full blown nuclear war – the kind that no one wins. (Goodreads)
“Why are we doing this?” Fero asked.
“Because potassium iodide stops radiation from-”
“From reaching the thyroid gland. You said. But won’t the shelter protect us.”
Street soldier, Andy McNab
Sean Harker is good at two things: stealing cars and fighting. One earns him money, the other earns him respect from the gang that he calls family.
A police chase through the city streets is just another rite of passage for Sean . . . as is getting nicked. But a brutal event behind bars convinces him to take charge, and turn his life around. Now he must put his street skills to the ultimate test: as a soldier in the British Army. And the battlefield is London, where innocent people are being targeted by a new and terrifying enemy. Undercover, under threat – only Sean Harker can save the streets from all-out war. (Goodreads)
First lines: A helicopter roared in enemy airspace. Its searchlight speared out of the warm night and swept over the rooftop. Sean Harker swore and ducked into the shadow of an air vent.
The last descendants, Matthew J. Kirby
Nothing in Owen’s life has been right since his father died in prison, accused of a crime Owen is certain he didn’t commit. Monroe, the IT guy at school, might finally bring Owen the means to clear his father’s name by letting him use an Animus — a device that lets users explore the genetic memories buried within their own DNA. The experience brings Owen more than he bargained for. During a simulation, Owen uncovers the existence of an ancient and powerful relic long considered legend — the Trident of Eden. Now two secret organizations will stop at nothing to take possession of this artefact — the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templar Order. It soon becomes clear to Owen that the only way to save himself is to find the Trident first. Under the guidance of Monroe, Owen and a group of other teenagers enter a simulation of memories they all share within their DNA: the 1863 draft riots in New York City. Owen and his companions will find themselves tested on the gritty streets of New York, and their experiences in the past will have far-reaching consequences in the present. (Goodreads)
First lines: The informant cleared his throat across the dinner table, his long frock coat unbuttoned, his hair greased and curled at his temples. Evening had quickly overtaken the townhouse, and the man had emptied his plate before delivering his message.
An unexpected hero, L.P Hansen
What could be worse, Matt Turner wonders, than having to leave your parents, friends and the buzz of big city life for a remote rural school that’s so small it only has two classrooms, and two teachers who are married to each other? The twelve-year old soon finds out that worse things can happen. A school project plunges him into his worst nightmare – he has to make a speech in public. Matt decides to speak about New Zealand’s First World War pacifist, Archibald Baxter. But is that a good idea in a district where almost every family has lost someone to war?” (Back cover)
First lines: Matt rummaged in his backpack, pretending to be looking for something so he could be the last one getting on the bus. It was his first morning at this country school, so he could be the last one getting on the bus.
It was with a heavy heart that I discovered that, a week after my post on Mary Shelley, a graphic adaptation of Frankenstein – “Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein” appeared on the new books shelf. Bad timing! But then this has to be one of the best graphic adaptations of any classic novel I’ve ever read. It takes text directly from Frankenstein, and the illustrator/editor, Gris Grimly, is an amazing artist. The art itself has a gothic, vaguely steampunk vibe; Boris Karloff eat your heart out, because this is the best depiction of the ‘monster’ I’ve ever seen. Please, please, if you’ve got any interest in Frankenstein, pick this one up.
I’ve been remiss in my duties – I completely missed Tuesday was the 219th anniversary of the birth of the great Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Not only did she write Frankenstein -argued to be the first science fiction novel ever- she had a fascinating life. Her mother was the great Mary Wollstonecraft, an early proto-feminist who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in which she argued for equality in education in men and women. Sadly, her mother died shortly after Mary was born. But the rest of her life was no less interesting. She flouted convention by running off with the still-married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Their social circle included the notorious Lord Byron and John William Polidori, creator of perhaps the first vampire story in modern fiction (although the authorship is still debated today.)
The genesis of Frankenstein began during a sojourn by Lake Geneva. Lord Byron proposed that each of the guests each write a ghost story. Mary struggled for some time, but eventually, after a strange dream, began to write Frankenstein. She was only eighteen at the time, which is pretty impressive. The rest of her life was pretty hard; she had to deal with the death of her husband, some of her children, and debt. But Frankenstein remains a classic. And of course I have recommendations! Frankenstein is a great source of inspiration for writers.
Frankenstein, or, The modern prometheus, Mary Shelley
Of course I have to start with the book that started it all. It’s not just a straightforward science fiction story; it looks at the possibilities and potential abuses of scientific knowledge, questions of personhood as well as guilt and responsibility. Frankenstein’s “monster” is not the green-faced, bolt-necked, incoherent monster of the movies. Rather he’s able to articulate his suffering as on outcast in a way that still resonates: “I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
Hideous love : the story of the girl who wrote Frankenstein, Stephanie Hemphill
This book tells the story of Mary Shelley herself; her life from her childhood to the death of her husband. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking novel told in free verse poetry. Don’t let that put you off picking it up, though – not a word is wasted. It’s sparse and beautiful and affecting – much more than any other biography of Mary Shelley I’ve read.
Man made boy, Jon Skovron
What if Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride of Frankenstein had a son? Simply called Boy, he struggles to fit in with The Show, a refuge for other strange (mostly magical) creatures. He longs for a life outside, so makes the decision to leave – then goes on a road trip, while struggling to deal with a creation of his own. There’s also a sequel, This broken wondrous world.
Hey cool cats – school’s back which is great because knowledge is important. I mean Herminone Granger was the true hero of the Harry Potter series.
For those of you who are wanting to extend your mega minds – I’ve got a list of epic Shakespearean-themed stories.
If you’re feeling like the cleverest kid in town don’t limit yourself to just reading retellings of the classic plays. Shakespeare’s own writing is moving and hilarious. Just check out how mad he was with writing insults:
“Thou art as loathsome as a toad!” Titus Andronicus
“Away you three-inch-fool!” Taming of the Shrew
“Thou art a boil, a plague sore!” King Lear
“You, minion, are too saucy,” The Two Gentlemen of Verona
“Thou art as fat as butter!” Henry IV Part One
Here’s a list of retellings for all you Shakespearean fiends:
“William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope” by Ian Doescher.
Star Wars meets Shakespeare – I can’t think of anything better. “The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearsome Stormtroopers, signifying…pretty much everything.” (Goodreads)
“As You Wish” by Jackson Pearce.
“Ever since Viola’s boyfriend broke up with her, she has spent her days silently wishing—to have someone love her again and, more importantly, to belong again—until one day she inadvertently summons a young genie out of his world and into her own. He will remain until she makes three wishes. Jinn is anxious to return home, but Viola is terrified of wishing, afraid she will not wish for the right thing, the thing that will make her truly happy. As the two spend time together, the lines between master and servant begin to blur, and soon Jinn can’t deny that he’s falling for Viola. But it’s only after Viola makes her first wish that she realizes she’s in love with Jinn as well . . . and that if she wishes twice more, he will disappear from her life—and her world—forever.” (Goodreads)
“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead” by Tom Stoppard.
This comedic play would be ideal if you were looking for something cool to do in Drama class. “Hamlet told from the worm’s-eye view of two minor characters, bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, reality and illusion mix, and where fate leads heroes to a tragic but inevitable end.” (Goodreads)
“Ophelia” by Lisa M Klein.
This looks awesome. “In this re-imagining of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, it is Ophelia who takes centre stage. A rowdy, motherless girl, she grows up at Elsinore Castle to become the queen’s most trusted lady-in-waiting. She catches the attention of the captivating, dark-haired Prince Hamlet, and their love blossoms in secret. But bloody deeds soon turn Denmark into a place of madness, and ultimately, Ophelia must choose between her love for Hamlet and her own life.” (Goodreads)
“Wondrous Strange” by Lesley Livingston.
“17 year-old Kelley Winslow doesn’t believe in Faeries. Not unless they’re the kind that you find in a theatre, spouting Shakespeare—the kind that Kelley so desperately wishes she could be: onstage, under lights, with a pair of sparkly wings strapped to her shoulders. But as the understudy in a two-bit, hopelessly off-off-Broadway production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, wishing is probably the closest she’s going to get to becoming a Faerie Queen. At least, that’s what she thinks… In this fun, urban fantasy, Kelley’s off-stage life suddenly becomes as complicated as one of Shakespeare’s plot twists when a nighttime trip to Central Park holds more than meets the mortal eye.” (Goodreads) Also available for download from OverDrive! eBooks are cool as.
“King of Shadows” by Susan Cooper.
“Only in the world of the theatre can Nat Field find an escape from the tragedies that have shadowed his young life. So he is thrilled when he is chosen to join an American drama troupe traveling to London to perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in a new replica of the famous Globe theater. Shortly after arriving in England, Nat goes to bed ill and awakens transported back in time four hundred years — to another London, and another production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Amid the bustle and excitement of an Elizabethan theatrical production, Nat finds the warm, nurturing father figure missing from his life — in none other than William Shakespeare himself. Does Nat have to remain trapped in the past forever, or give up the friendship he’s so longed for in his own time?” (Goodreads)
Beware the wild, Natalie C. Parker
It’s an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp — the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn’t return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.
Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp’s done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance — and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her. (Goodreads)
First lines: It’s no secret, ours is the meanest swamp in Louisiana. Regular swamps are dangerous enough. Loud, stinking things, they hide their claws in the mid between cypress knees, beneath the surface of stale, brackish waters. There are a hundred ways to die all cloaked in the twist of pale trees – gators fast enough to catch a grown man, mosquitoes teeming with disease, stinging plants, hungry black bears, and nasty cotton mouths all filled with spire and patience.
Sweet reckoning, Wendy Higgins
It’s time. Evil is running rampant and sweet Anna Whitt is its target. Nobody knows when or how the Dukes will strike, but Anna and her Nephilim allies will do anything necessary to rid the earth of the demons and their oppressive ways. The stakes are higher than ever, and Anna is determined that the love she feels will be her strength, not a liability. But trying to protect the ones she loves while running for her life and battling demonic forces proves to be perilous—especially as faces are changing and trust is fleeting. When the Duke of Lust sends Anna’s great love, Kaidan Rowe, to work against her, Anna must decide how much she’s prepared to risk. (Goodreads)
First lines: Not a soul in the Vegas cocktail lounge had any idea demons were in their midst. Not a soul would believe that the four gentlemen receiving appreciative stares and envious glares were some of the best workers of hell ever to walk the earth.
Eternal, C.C Hunter
All her life, Della’s secret powers have made her feel separated from her human family. Now, she’s where she belongs, at Shadow Falls. With the help of her best friends Kylie and Miranda, she’ll try to prove herself in the paranormal world as an investigator—all the while trying to figure out her own heart. Should she chose Chase, a powerful vampire with whom she shares a special bond? Or Steve, the hot shapeshifter whose kisses make her weak in the knees? When a person with dark connection to her past shows up, it’ll help her decide which guy to choose–and make her question everything she knows about herself.
First lines: Della Tsang swung one leg outside her bedroom window. The sun had risen but hung on the eastern horizon, spilling just enough light to paint that strip of sky a blood-red. The colour had her mouth watering. Her empty stomach rumbled. She needed blood. Later. First things first.
Faking it, Gabrielle Tozer
Things are looking up for Josie Browning. Her boyfriend, James, is crazy about her, and she’s scored a writing job at indi. Now the pressure is on for Josie to prove she’s got what it takes to help plan indi’s launch. Plus, she’s battling with flatmates, frenemies and confusing feelings for travel writer Alex. High on the perks at indi, Josie’s doing a pretty good job of faking her way in the industry – even though she still hasn’t mastered her hair straightener. But when Josie is invited to a media junket, she accidentally sets off a string of lies that threaten to ruin her reputation, love life and career forever. (Goodreads)
First lines: We still hadn’t done it. You know: it. James and I had been together for approximately three months, two weeks, one day, ten hours and five minutes and we still hadn’t said “I love you.” I figured the words would come eventually, and when they did I wanted everything to be perfect.
The new enemy, Andy McNab
Liam Scott has joined Recce Platoon, and it looks like he will be heading for Somalia. His mission is to gather intelligence from behind enemy lines, carrying out top-secret surveillance and dead-letter drops. But he’s new to the game and there’s a lot to learn.Soon Liam is monitoring a den of Al Shabaab militants and hunting a key terrorist target. Can Recce Platoon find their man and get out undiscovered? If the militants find them first, it’s game over…
First lines: The night sky was a grumbling black mass of boiling clouds, rain poring onto an already sodden earth. Liam Scott had been on the run for most of the night now and he was starting to lose track of time. But all he was really concerned about was staying one step ahead of those who were out to catch him. Because when they did, the real pain would start.
Laurinda, Alice Pung
Laurinda is an exclusive school for girls. At its hidden centre of power is The Cabinet, a triangle of girls who wield power over their classmates – and some of their teachers.
Entering this world of wealth and secrets is Lucy Lam, a scholarship girl with sharp eyes and a shaky sense of self. As she watches The Cabinet in action, and is courted by them – as she learns about power and repression – Lucy finds herself in a battle for her identity and integrity. (Goodreads)
First lines: Dear Linh, remember how we used to catch the 406 bus after school, past the Victory Carpet Factory and the main hub of Sunray, through to Stanley? What an adventure, we used to think them. What a waste of time, looking back now.
The blue castle, L.M Montgomery
Valancy lives a drab life with her overbearing mother and prying aunt. Then a shocking diagnosis from Dr. Trent prompts her to make a fresh start. For the first time, she does and says exactly what she feels. As she expands her limited horizons, Valancy undergoes a transformation, discovering a new world of love and happiness. (Gooodreads)
First lines: If it had not rained on a certain May morning, Valancy Stirling’s whole life would have been entirely different. She would have gone, with the rest of her clan, to Aunt Wellington’s engagement picnic and Dr. Trent would have gone to Montreal. But it did rain and you shall hear what happened to her because of it.
Blackfin sky, Kat Ellis
When Sky falls from Blackfin Pier and drowns on her sixteenth birthday, the whole town goes into mourning – until she shows up three months later like nothing happened. Unravelling the mystery of those missing months takes Sky to the burned-out circus in the woods, where whispers of murder and kidnapping begin to reveal the town’s secrets. But Sky’s not the only one digging up the past – the old mime from the circus knows what happened to her, and he has more than one reason for keeping quiet about it. (Goodreads)
First lines: Silas’s spirit had inhabited the rusted weathervane for many years. From his perch on the school roof, he watched the townsfolk of Blackfin through his empty eye sockets as they buzzed through their lives, no more significant that the grains of sand piling up against the shoreline and on the struts of Blackfin pier.
Famous last words. Katie Alender
Willa is freaking out. It seems like she’s seeing things. Like a dead body in her swimming pool. Frantic messages on her walls. A reflection that is not her own. It’s almost as if someone — or something — is trying to send her a message. Meanwhile, a killer is stalking Los Angeles — a killer who reenacts famous movie murder scenes. Could Willa’s strange visions have to do with these unsolved murders? Or is she going crazy? And who can she confide in? There’s Marnie, her new friend who may not be totally trustworthy. And there’s Reed, who’s ridiculously handsome and seems to get Willa. There’s also Wyatt, who’s super smart but unhealthily obsessed with the Hollywood Killer. All Willa knows is, she has to confront the possible-ghost in her house, or she just might lose her mind . . . or her life.
First lines: Nothing glittered. I’d never been to Hollywood before, but like any other person with eyeballs and a television, I’d seen it a thousand times. I expected wide, palm-tree-lined roads and mansions that overflowed with fabulous movies stars. What I got was a normal city.
Girl on a wire, Gwenda Bond
A ballerina, twirling on a wire high above the crowd. Horses, prancing like salsa dancers. Trapeze artists, flying like somersaulting falcons. And magic crackling through the air. Welcome to the Cirque American! Sixteen-year-old Jules Maroni’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps as a high-wire walker. When her family is offered a prestigious role in the new Cirque American, it seems that Jules and the Amazing Maronis will finally get the spotlight they deserve. But the presence of the Flying Garcias may derail her plans. For decades, the two rival families have avoided each other as sworn enemies. Jules ignores the drama and focuses on the wire, skyrocketing to fame as the girl in a red tutu who dances across the wire at death-defying heights. But when she discovers a peacock feather—an infamous object of bad luck—planted on her costume, Jules nearly loses her footing. She has no choice but to seek help from the unlikeliest of people: Remy Garcia, son of the Garcia clan matriarch and the best trapeze artist in the Cirque. As more mysterious talismans believed to possess unlucky magic appear, Jules and Remy unite to find the culprit. And if they don’t figure out what’s going on soon, Jules may be the first Maroni to do the unthinkable: fall. (Goodreads)
First lines: I planted my feet on the wire that ran parallel to the rafters. My new act involved a series of ballet-inspired moves, building to a trio of slow but tricky pirouettes, and the barn was the best place to practice. If I mastered these moves today, I’d be showing them off at the next show our traveling family circus offered- Fridays and Saturdays, entry for twelve bucks.
Get even, Gretchen McNeil
Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot have nothing in common—at least that’s what they’d like the students and administrators of their elite private school to think. The girls have different goals, different friends, and different lives, but they share one very big secret: They’re all members of Don’t Get Mad, a secret society that anonymously takes revenge on the school’s bullies, mean girls, and tyrannical teachers. When their latest target ends up dead with a blood-soaked “DGM” card in his hands, the girls realize that they’re not as anonymous as they thought—and that someone now wants revenge on them. Soon the clues are piling up, the police are closing in . . . and everyone has something to lose. (Goodreads)
First lines: Bree sat back against the chain-link fence, bouncing her tennis racket lightly against the toe of her black Converse.
“Why do we still have physical education in school?”
John snatched the racket out of her hand. “It’s a political conspiracy to repress the youth of America through enforced humiliation.”
How it went down, Kekla Magoon
When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.
In the aftermath of Tariq’s death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.
Tariq’s friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down. (Goodreads)
First lines: Red. Black. White. That’s all I remember. It was a blur, like a dream sequence in the sort of movie that comes with subtitles. Red. Blood, spilling like red link. Black, His hair and skin, and the tar beneath him. He was kind of sprawled out, and it seemed almost right for him to be down there, like he blended in. White. I couldn’t make sense of it at first. It wasn’t a clean white, like snow. More of a wispy, dirty white, like clouds on an average winter day.
Valhalla, Ari Bach
Violet MacRae is one of the aimless millions crowding northern Scotland. In the year 2330, where war is obsolete and only brilliant minds are valued, she emerges into adulthood with more brawn than brains and a propensity for violence. People dismiss her as a relic, but world peace is more fragile than they know. In Valhalla, a clandestine base hidden in an icy ravine, Violet connects with a group of outcasts just like her. There, she learns the skills she needs to keep the world safe from genetically enhanced criminals and traitors who threaten the first friends she’s ever known. She also meets Wulfgar Kray, a genius gang leader who knows her better than she knows herself and who would conquer the world to capture her. Branded from childhood as a useless barbarian, Violet is about to learn the world needs her exactly as she is. (Goodreads)
First lines: Of the million people in Kyle City, there was none so aimless as Violet MacRae. That’s not to say she walked into walls or spoke in tangents, only that she lacked a purpose in life. Every night since she could speak, her parents asked her the same question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Vivian Apple at the end of the world, Katie Coyle
Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn’t looking for a savior. She’s looking for the truth. (Goodreads)
First lines: There came a time when the American people began to forget God. They turned away from His churches and grew arrogant and stupid. God needed a Prophet, and He chose a man called Beaton Frick. Frick was pure of heart and mighty of resources; he lived in a kingdom called Florida.
The great Greene heist, Varian Johnson
Jackson Greene has reformed. No, really he has. He became famous for the Shakedown at Shimmering Hills, and everyone still talks about the Blitz at the Fitz…. But after the disaster of the Mid-Day PDA, he swore off scheming and conning for good. Then Keith Sinclair — loser of the Blitz — announces he’s running for school president, against Jackson’s former best friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby hasn’t talked to Jackson since the PDA, and he knows she won’t welcome his involvement. But he also knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the election whatever the vote count. So Jackson assembles a crack team to ensure the election is done right: Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess and cheerleader. Charlie de la Cruz, point man. Together they devise a plan that will bring Keith down once and for all. Yet as Jackson draws closer to Gaby again, he realizes the election isn’t the only thing he wants to win. (Goodreads)
First lines: As Jackson Greene sped past the Maplewood Middle School cafeteria – his trademark red tie skewed slightly to the left, a yellow No.2 pencil balanced behind his ear, and a small spiral-bound notebook tucked in his right jacket pocket -he found himself dangerously close to sliding back into the warm confines of scheming and pranking.
Reading ghost stories at Christmas was a bit of a tradition in Victorian England. As a lover of all things horror I am keen to see this revived; there’s nothing like sitting down with a chilling tale, although I must admit reading ghost stories in the middle of an English winter is very different to reading them in the height of Summer! Be warned: these are not for those of a delicate constitution.
The time of the ghost, Diana Wynne Jones
Ghost stories told from the perspective of the ghost themselves aren’t a rare trope in supernatural fiction, but this book is a cut above the rest. The ghost doesn’t know who she is; she suspects that she is one of four sisters and that she has travelled back in time to prevent something terrible from happening. Something that stems from a not-so-innocent game that the girls play. It also deals with a degree of real-life horror: the girls are actively neglected by their own parents, and their futures seem grim if the evil force cannot be quieted. It’s a subtle, creepy book, rather different from the author’s usual work. I read it again, recently, and found it as disturbing as it was when I read it as a teenager.
This is a group of creepy stories from some of the greats of horror literature: Stephen King, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and H.P Lovecraft. There are also some more obscure writers, but each story is excellent and a worthy introduction to each writers’ work. What lifts this above other collections is the haunting illustrations by Barry Moser. They’re simple, black and white drawings that chillingly depict some faucet of the story.
The turning, Francine Prose
This book is based off The Turn of the Screw, a novella written in 1898 by Henry James. Like the original, the narrator is sent to a strange house to look after some children. It’s been updated, however: the narrator is now male, a teenager and the story has a contemporary setting. I don’t want to give too much away, but the book asks interesting questions about just how reliable the narrator is – is he actually seeing ghosts, or are they something more sinister from something deep within his own mind? Read this and then read the original, which is here.
On the day I died, Candace Fleming
Mike Kowalski decides to pick up a strange girl on his way home, only for her to take him to a nearby cemetery. He is greeted by nine teenage ghosts, each with their own story to tell. This book is haunting not just because of the poignant, strange or downright terrifying tales of each of the ghosts, but the fact that many are based on real incidents from Chicago’s history – the setting for this story and almost a character in its own right.
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
I couldn’t go past the one that started it all, of course! A Christmas Carol was published in 1843, and has undergone many productions and reinterpretations since then. My favourite film version is The Muppet Christmas Carol, and my favourite book is the one pictured here: sure, Quentin Blake isn’t the scariest of artists, but his art’s gorgeous and suits the story very well. You’re never too old to enjoy a story well told, I think!
Hello! Apologies for my absence over the last couple of weeks, I was busy getting some of my wisdom teeth taken out. I wouldn’t recommend it as a lifestyle choice, but it’s not so bad in the long run. To honour of my loss of wisdom (and teeth) I thought I would feature some toothy books, ranging from orthodontic problems to toothy beasties. Sink your teeth in!
Smile, Raina Telgemeier
“Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there’s still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly.” (Goodreads)
White Fang, Jack London
“In the desolate, frozen wilds of northwest Canada, White Fang, a part dog, part wolf cub soon finds himself the sole survivor of a litter of five. In his lonely world, he soon learned to follow the harsh law of the North – kill or be killed. But nothing in his young life prepared him for the cruelty of the bully Beauty Smith, who buys White Fang from his Indian master and turns him into a vicious killer – a pit dog forced to fight for money. Will White Fang ever know the kindness of a gentle master or will he die a fierce deadly killer?” (Goodreads)
Dracula, Bram Stoker
“Jonathan Harker is sent by his law firm to Castle Dracula to discuss business with Transylvania noble Count Dracula. His nightmare experience there is just the start of a macabre chain of events. Harker soon finds himself in a race against time to free his wife, Mina, and other souls who are in thrall to the evil count. Dracula must be destroyed at all costs…” (Syndetics summary)
The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan
“In Mary’s world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best, and the fence that protects her village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth must remain intact. After fence is breached, Mary’s world is thrown into chaos, and she must choose between her village and her future.” (Syndetics summary)
Chomp, Carl Hiaasen
“Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he’s grown up with all manner of critters, but his father is the unpredictable one. When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called “Expedition Survival!”, Wahoo figures he’ll have to do a bit of wrangling himself — to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the show’s boneheaded star, before the shoot is over. And Wahoo’s acquired a shadow named Tuna — a girl who’s sporting a shiner courtesy of her old man and needs a place to hide out. They’ve only been on location in the Everglades for a day before Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna’s dad shows up with a gun…” (Adapted from Goodreads)
Swamplandia!, Karen Russell
“The Bigtree alligator wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Swamplandia!, its island home and gator-wrestling theme park, is swiftly being encroached upon by a competitor. To save her family, Ava must journey on her own to a perilous part of the swamp called the Underworld.” (Syndetics summary)