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  • Classic novels, GLBT, Great Reads, Librarian's Choice, New, Nicola, realistic fiction, Troubled teens trying to put their past behind them

    YA classics (part one)

    12.11.18 | Permalink | Comment?

    I tend to feature a lot of new books on this blog but perhaps it’s time to highlight some YA “classics”.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Outsiders, S.E Hinton (1967)

    This is the archetypal story of young men living on the wrong side of the tracks, as defined by an often hostile society. Told from the perspective of Ponyboy, a member of a gang of Greasers who details their rivalry with the “socs” another gang, and the disaster and violence their conflict causes. There are plot elements which would be familiar to readers today; abusive or neglectful parents, class differences, crime and the strength people draw from their friends.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsI am the cheese, Robert Cormier (1977)

    I’ve never read a book quite like I am the cheese. It’s a twisting, complex tale of identity and corruption, told through the eyes of a young boy who has witnessed something truly traumatic and must deal with the consequences. To describe it any further would spoil the plot, so if you are intrigued, I suggest you pick it up. I think the only book that comes vaguely close is E. Lockhart’s We were liars, although the stakes are much, much higher in Cormier’s book.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSkellig, David Almond (1998)

    Magical realism is a common genre for YA fiction at the moment but Skellig was a pioneer in the genre. It manages to capture the soaring heights of the “magical” whilst also effectively depicting the realism; the two are beautifully balanced. The main character, Michael, is struggling to cope in a new home and with a baby sister who is dangerously ill. Then he finds a strange creature – possibly angelic, but never defined- in his shed, the titular Skellig. The two plots interweave and it’s a particular favourite of mine.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAnnie on my mind, Nancy Garden (1982)

    LGBTQ fiction has come along way since 1982 but Annie on my mind was groundbreaking when it was first published. That being said, the themes of love, heartbreak and identity are still being written about. It’s worth reading anyway, if only to see how far writing on these themes have come. It’s also 48 on the ALA’s most challenged books from 1990 – 2000.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsNoughts and Crossses, Malorie Blackman (2002)

    Examinations of race and racism are coming to the forefront of YA fiction; The Hate u give by Angie Thomas is probably the most recent and most well-known of these books. But before then, the Noughts and Crosses series examined race relations with a twist – in this alternate universe, noughts (people with white skin) are disadvantaged and crosses (people of colour) occupy positions of ultimate privilege. It’s also a love story, thriller, and a brilliant read. It’s also the first book in a series.


  • Classic novels, dystopia, Fantasy, Mysteries, New, Nicola, realistic fiction, Troubled teens trying to put their past behind them

    New books

    27.07.18 | Permalink | Comments Off on New books

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsStorm-wake, Lucy Christopher

    Moss has lived with her pa on a remote island for as long as she remembers. The Old World has disappeared beneath the waves – only Pa’s magic, harnessing the wondrous stormflowers on the island, can save the sunken continents. But a storm is brewing, promising cataclysmic changes. Soon, two strange boys wash up on the shore. As the clouds swell and the ocean churns, Moss learns to open her eyes to the truth about her isolated world … (Publisher summary)

    First lines: The story starts with a dream, and its dreamer.
    He was younger then, rolling in the belly of his boat, on rougher waters than expected inside those harbour walls. The first day of spring, and he felt at the end of the world. And still, the storms stayed.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsOne small thing, Erin Watt

    Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems like a small thing, just for her. Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is… Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for, including his part in the night Beth’s sister died. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get. Now Beth has a choice to make–follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart… again. (Amazon summary)

    First lines: “Hey there, pupster.” I laugh as Morgan, the Rennicks’ dog, races across the lawn and jumps up on my khaki pants.
    “Sorry, Lizzie,” she says, rushing over to pull the big black mutt off without much success. She’s small and he’s so big that they’re about the same size.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsArthur: the seeing stone, Kevin Crossley-Holland

    In late twelfth-century England, a thirteen-year-old boy named Arthur recounts how Merlin gives him a magical seeing stone which shows him images of the legendary King Arthur, the events of whose life seem to have many parallels to his own. (Publisher summary)

    First lines: Tumber Hill! It’s my clamber-and-tumble-and-beech-and-bramble hill! Sometimes, when I’m standing on the top, I fill my lungs with air and I shout. I shout.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAscension, Victor Dixen

    Six girls, six boys. Each in the two separate bays of a single spaceship. They have six minutes each week to seduce and to make their choices, under the unblinking eye of the on-board cameras. They are the contenders in the Genesis programme, the world’s craziest speed-dating show ever, aimed at creating the first human colony on Mars.
    Leonor, an 18 year old orphan, is one of the chosen ones.
    She has signed up for glory.
    She has signed up for love.
    She has signed up for a one-way ticket.
    Even if the dream turns to a nightmare, it is too late for regrets. (Goodreads summary)

    First lines: “Léonor, how does it feel to be leaving the Earth for ever?
    “Léonor, are you looking forward to it?”
    “Léonor, are you scared?”

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWereworld: nest of serpents, Curtis Jobling

    War grips the seven realms. Young Werewolf Drew Ferran, rightful king of Westland, has rushed to the aid of the besieged Staglords, whose mountain stronghold is surrounded by the forces of the Werelion Prince Lucas. And deep in the haunted Dyrewood forest the Wereladies Gretchen and Whitley seek sanctuary within the city of Brackenholme. As Lyssia’s greatest war rumbles towards a thunderous climax, the lines between friend and foe are blurred. What if the enemy is one of their own? (Publisher summary)

    First lines: “Did you hit him, master?”
    The Lionguard scout lowered his bow, ignoring his apprentice. He stared out across the Longridings, squinting through the twilight at the evading Greencloak.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFugitive six, Pittacus Lore

    he Human Garde Academy was created in the aftermath of an alien invasion of Earth. It was meant to provide a safe haven for teens across the globe who were suddenly developing incredible powers known as Legacies. Taylor Cook was one of the newest students and had no idea if she’d ever fit in. But when she was mysteriously abducted, her friends broke every rule in the book to save her. In the process, they uncovered a secret organization that was not only behind Taylor’s kidnapping but also the disappearance of numerous teens with abilities. An organization that has dark roots in the Loric’s past, untold resources, and potentially even a mole at their own school. Now these friends, who have become known to other students as the “Fugitive Six,” must work together to bring this mysterious group to an end before they can hurt anyone else. (Publisher summary)

    First lines: Duanphen watched the beggar as he scurried through traffic with his bucket and rag. The boy couldn’t have been more than twelve, small, with a mop of greasy black hair. He picked his cars smartly – shiny ones with tinted with windows and drunk passengers.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAfrika, Colleen Craig

    Thirteen-year-old Kim, travels to South Africa with her journalist mother and must come to terms with the country’s diverse and often shocking history with the realization that she is not as removed from this powerful story as she thought. (Publisher information)

    First lines: “Let’s go,” said Kim as the plane came to complete stop on the runway,
    Her mom, the sort who could not stay still for a moment, sat like a statue beside her.
    “I can’t,” she said.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAdam and Eve and Pinch-Me, Julia Johnston

    “If you don’t want your heart broken, don’t let on you have one.” Sara Moone is an expert on broken hearts. She is a foster child who has been bounced from home to home, but now she is almost sixteen and can not live in the system forever. She vows that she will live in a cold, white place where nobody can hurt her again. But there is one more placement in store for Sara. She is sent to live with the Huddlestons on their sheep farm. There, despite herself, Sara learns that there is no escape from love. It has a way of catching you off guard, even when you try to turn your back. (Publisher summary)

    First lines: Just shut up. I’d like to tell my brain to just shut up. Have you ever noticed how you can’t make your mind stop thinking even though you try to think about absolutely nothing?


  • Classic novels, dystopia, Great Reads, Librarian's Choice, Nicola, You might like

    You might like…dystopias

    04.05.18 | Permalink | Comments Off on You might like…dystopias

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsDystopias are a constant in YA fiction – what happens when imperfect humans try to create a perfect world. The dictionary defines it as “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.” But I think the idea that this was an attempt to make a perfect world is an important one. Of course one must ask: perfect for whom?

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSeries like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner being among our most popular titles. Other notable titles include Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon – which won the Carnegie Medal in 2013. The Giver by Lois Lowry is a classic of YA literature for good reason, although it has a subtler approach to the genre than others.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsOf course we have the two “parents” of the genre. 1984 is the George Orwell classic. Later we have Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Another book that’s in the media a lot and – warning, it’s tough going – is The Handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood. Another favourite classic is Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower.


  • Classic novels, Comedy, dystopia, Fantasy, Great Reads, Mysteries, realistic fiction, Top 10, Top Ten, Troubled teens trying to put their past behind them

    Our ten most popular YA books for September

    29.09.17 | Permalink | Comments Off on Our ten most popular YA books for September

    1. Girl Online, Zoe Sugg
    2. The fault in our stars, John Green
    3. Th1rteen r3asons why, Jay Asher
    4. Gone, Michael Grant
    5. The fall, Robert Muchamore
    6. Mortal Engines, Phillip Reeve
    7. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
    8. Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell
    9. The Maze runner, James Dashner
    10. Everything, everything, Nicola Yoon


  • Classic novels, dystopia, New, Nicola, Sci Fi

    New books

    06.06.17 | Permalink | Comments Off on New books

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWait for me, Caroline Leech

    On her father’s farm in Scotland in 1945, Lorna Anderson’s life consists of endless chores, rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Laura is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country? But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him — from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany — the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate. (Publisher information).

    First lines: Lorna Anderson was ankle deep in muck and milk. And she was late. Again. She really didn’t have time to clean up yet another of Nellie’s messes and still make it to school before the bell. Of course, this wasn’t the first time Lorna had somewhere important to be, yet here she was, broom in hand.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSeeking Mansfield, Kate Watson

    Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend and godparents’ son, Oliver Bertram. Since Finley moved in with her godparents after the death of her father, she and Oliver have grown close. If Finley could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater. But when teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move across the street from the Bertrams, they shake up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Finley realizes that Harlan’s attention is shifting to her. She discovers she might have feelings for him too. Or, is she only interested in Harlan because Oliver is taken? Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart – and keep her own – she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight. (Publisher information).

    First lines: Finley Price was a fool. She stared at her computer screen with a dry mouth, absent-mindedly rubbing one of the small, circular scars branded into her right shoulder. The words “Mansfield Theatre Youth Application” mocked her in bold font, as if they knew she didn’t deserve the spot.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsContagion, Teri Terry

    An epidemic is sweeping the country. There is no cure; and you cannot be permitted to infect others. The very few of the infected who survive are dangerous and will be taken into the custody of the army. Young runaway Callie survived the disease, but not the so-called treatment. Her brother Kai is still looking for her. And his new friend Shay may hold the key to uncovering what truly happened. (Publisher information)

    First lines: Erooo…Erooo…Erooo…
    Alarms reverberate through my skull, high-pitched and insistent. I scramble out of bed. Disbelief fights reality; how do you think the unthinkable? The fail-safes have failed. This is really happening.
    Run.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThick as thieves, Megan Whalen Turner

    Kamet, a secretary and slave to his Mede master, has the ambition and the means to become one of the most powerful people in the Empire. But with a whispered warning the future he envisioned is wrenched away, and he is forced onto a very different path. (Publisher information).

    First lines: It was midday and the passageway quiet and cool. The stone walls kept out the heat while the openings near the high ceilings admitted some of the sun’s fierce light. Midday, and the houseboy was gone on an errand, probably stealing a nap somewhere, so I was alone at the door, to my master’s apartments, holding my head my hand and cursing myself for an idiot.


  • Classic novels, From the Stacks, Great Reads, Librarian's Choice, Nicola, Real Life, Real Problems, realistic fiction

    From the stacks

    03.06.17 | Permalink | Comments Off on From the stacks

    I’ve talked about our stack collection before and I promised to make it a (semi) regular feature, so here’s more picks from our YA stack collection. This time I’m highlighting some novels about teenagers facing the complexities of their lives.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsTree by leaf, Cynthia Voight

    Clothide is troubled; her father, a veteran of the First World War, has become a recluse. Her brother is away for the Summer and her beloved friend, the family servant, Lou, has been dismissed by her mother. On top of this, her family are talking about selling the peninsula where they live. Clothilde wishes and prays for life to be different; but she finds the cost of these wishes is almost beyond paying. It’s a beautiful novel, which looks at love, life and relationships to the land you call home.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsDeliver us from Evie, M.E. Kerr

    Everyone’s talking about Evie Burrman and nothing good. In a small, conservative town this has serious implications for her family. It’s narrated by Evie’s brother Parr, who’s torn between his love for his sister and his need for acceptance. Evie is a wonderful, interesting character in her own right, who stands firm in belief to be true to herself. This book was published in 1994, so some of the writing and attitudes may seem a bit dated, but it’s sensitive and tender – a LGBTQ classic for a reason.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe year they burned the books, Nancy Garden

    Teenagers and adults clash over sex education in this novel, set in a small town. The staff at the school newspaper fight amongst themselves about how to deal with this; issues about freedom of speech, belief and freedom are all debated, and some of the characters have higher stakes in this than others. At its core it is a struggle between what the teen characters want to decide for themselves and what the adults want to decide for them – a topic that is still relevant today. Although that cover hasn’t aged nearly as well!

    The pigman, Paul Zindel

    There are some books that just stay with you, and The Pigman is one of them. Two teenagers entangle their lives with that of a lonely old man, all of them seeking a respite from loneliness. But external circumstances and their own frailty have tragic consequences. It was written in 1968, but still feels incredibly modern in its approach to characters and story.


  • Classic novels, Comedy, dystopia, New, Nicola

    New books

    25.11.16 | Permalink | Comments Off on New books

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsUnboxed, 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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsOur 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?

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFoulsham, 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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe 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?”

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe 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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsGirl 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.


  • Classic novels, From the Stacks, Great Reads, Librarian's Choice, Mysteries, New Zealand, Nicola, Nostalgia

    From the stacks

    02.11.16 | Permalink | Comments Off on From the stacks

    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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWatermark, 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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMontmorency, 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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe 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.


  • Classic novels, Great Reads, halloween countdown, Horror, Librarian's Choice, Nicola, Short stories

    Halloween series: short story collections

    10.10.16 | Permalink | Comments Off on Halloween series: short story collections

    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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsExtremities: 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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsScary 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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSlasher 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…

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsBlack 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.


  • Classic novels, Great Reads, Grimm, Horror, Mysteries, New Zealand, Nicola

    Halloween series: Books about witches

    05.10.16 | Permalink | Comments Off on Halloween series: Books about witches

    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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWitch 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. .

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe 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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSea 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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsTripswitch, 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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAkata 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.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsBaba 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…


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